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DH shelves plans to handcuff UK-trained doctors to NHS for four years

The Department of Health has kicked plans to force UK medical graduates to spend four years working in the NHS into the long grass, after being warned that it would ‘exacerbate’ the workforce crisis.

The DH did add that it would ‘continue to consider’ how to ensure taxpayer return from the cost of medical education, but a DH spokesperson told Pulse that there was no date to revisit the idea of four-year minimum service for the time being.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt had told the Conservative Party conference last year that it would see ‘all those trained as doctors on the NHS… required to work in the NHS for a minimum of four years after graduation’, but the DH told Pulse the consultation could not reach a conclusion on the matter.

The DH will today respond to its consultation on how to expand medical schools places by a quarter.

Pulse understands this will rubber-stamp plans for medical schools funding to be geared towards institutions with a proven track record on producing GPs, when allocating 1,000 or the 1,500 new training places.

In a briefing ahead of publishing the full response later today, the DH also said it would focus on boosting diversity in the workforce, including for disadvantaged students.

It added that medical schools will have to show how they will prioritise training in rural and coastal regions, which historically struggle to recruit.

Health minister Philip Dunne said: ‘Not only is this the biggest ever expansion to the number of doctor training places, but it’s also one of the most inclusive; ensuring everyone has the chance to study medicine regardless of their background, and ensuring the NHS is equipped for the future with doctors serving in the areas that need them the most.’

The BMA’s consultation submission to the DH had argued that ‘tax payers get a significant return on their investment from the dedicated service provided by all doctors over the course of their career’.

It added that such a policy would exacerbate workforce woes, discourage students from poorer background, and was potentially discriminatory to women who are more likely to take a career break.

The RCGP had said at the time this would not happen, as it could not be enforced.

The BMA said they would welcome further clarity on the matter of forcing graduates to work in the NHS.

BMA medical students committee co-chair Harrison Carter said: ‘Medical students… need clarity on whether they must work for the NHS for a minimum number of years following graduation.

‘This proposal isn’t necessary as only a small minority of doctors do not complete their training in the NHS and it would only serve to worsen poor morale and potentially discourage students from choosing medicine. It could also be discriminatory towards women, who are more likely to take more career breaks than men.’