Medical schools are to get extra funding to meet a 20% surge in demand for places, the Government has announced.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the move would benefit the primary care workforce with more medical students opting for training in general practice.
A cap on courses at universities in England – introduced to ensure teaching, learning, and assessment standards are maintained – is being adjusted to allow for more than 9,000 places on medical and dentistry courses for the 2021 student intake.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘This will mean more doctors in training, some of whom will go into GP training.’
The Government’s announcement comes before this year’s A-level results are released next week and tens of thousands of school leavers find out their grades after the exams were cancelled for the second year in a row because of the pandemic.
The BMA has welcomed the decision but warned the new measures must not be allowed to impact on future workforce funding.
BMA medical academics committee co-chair Dr Mary Anne Burrow said: ‘We welcome the news that there will be extra funding for medical school places as this desperate need for more doctors in training is a recommendation that we made in our Medical Staffing in England report, which we issued last month.
‘However, this increase in student places must not come at the expense of extra funding for the existing workforce or reductions in funding in future years, because tackling the waiting lists and backlog are going to require sustained investment over many years.
She added that the Government must also ‘make clear that there will be sufficient clinical places for all those who succeed at medical school’.
‘We don’t have enough doctors, those that are working are exhausted and burned out,’ Dr Burrow said.
‘Finding the money to train doctors of the future is therefore essential but must be matched with the right investments in medical educators and clinical places to ensure that this leads to a sustained increase in the medical workforce.’
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Covid-19 has challenged healthcare staff and students like never before, and our nation has relied on them to keep us and our loved ones safe.
‘As we look beyond the pandemic, it’s incredibly important we safeguard the future of our NHS by ensuring there is a pipeline of high-quality staff to bolster the workforce in the years ahead.
‘Working closely with universities, we’re helping more students who meet the bar to get a place this year to study medicine or dentistry and join these fantastic professions.’
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Throughout this pandemic our NHS heroes have been at the forefront of the response and their resilience, dedication and perseverance has clearly inspired the next generation.
‘Medicine and dentistry have always been popular courses and we have seen significant demand for places this year alongside other subjects like engineering and nursing.
‘We want to match student enthusiasm and ensure as many as possible can train this year to be the doctors and healthcare professionals of the future.’
The DHSC said the current financial year had seen the highest ever number of doctors accepting a place to train as a GP and that the department was committed to increasing the number of training places available to 4,000 a year.
The medical school news comes as the BMA branded newly-calculated GP workforce figures – using a new methodology – as ‘disingenuous gaslighting’.