Doctors will be required to work in the NHS for at least four years upon qualification as part of a £100m plan to make the NHS ‘self sufficient’ for doctor recruitment by the end of the next Parliament.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will unveil the new requirement alongside plans to expand medical school training places by a ‘up to’ a quarter by 2018, from a current cap set at just over 6,000 a year.
Speaking later today at the Conservative Party’s annual conference, Mr Hunt will say that ‘we need to prepare the NHS for the future’ by ‘doing something we have never done properly before: training enough doctors’.
He will say that this comes as currently a quarter of NHS doctors come from overseas.
The news comes as the Government is working towards recruiting 5,000 new GPs by 2020, but a Pulse analysis has suggested it will miss this target by more than half.
Mr Hunt will say his plans will make the NHS in England less reliant on doctors trained overseas and locums and ensure ‘all domestic students with the skills and capability’ to be a doctor have the chance to do so.
He will say: ‘They do a fantastic job and we have been clear that we want EU nationals who are already here to be able to stay post-Brexit. But is it right to import doctors from poorer countries that need them whilst turning away bright home graduates desperate to study medicine?’
He will say that this is why he is announcing an expansion of training places, but that this will come with strings.
He will say: ‘From September 2018, we will train up to 1,500 more doctors every year, increasing the number of medical school places by up to a quarter. Of course it will take a number of years before those doctors qualify, but by the end of the next Parliament we will make the NHS self sufficient in doctors.
‘In order to ensure these reforms deliver for the taxpayer, the Government will also require for the first time that all those trained as doctors on the NHS will be required to work in the NHS for a minimum of four years after graduation.
‘This mirrors the approach taken for those whose higher education was funded by the Armed Forces. It currently costs the taxpayer £220,000 to produce a graduate from medical school.’
The Government expects that expanding training will cost £100m by 2020/21 but that in the long run this will be offset by savings made from the locum bill which currently stands at £1.2bn a year.
Mr Hunt is also planning for international students in the UK to pay more towards their education and training.
Mr Hunt will says: ‘Our medical schools have an outstanding international reputation, and these changes will in part be funded by charging international students for the totality of their training, including clinical placements which they do not currently pay for.’
It is not clear how the commitment to become self sufficient will be squared with NHS England’s commitment to recruit more GPs from international medical schools, revealed in NHS England board papers in July.
Pulse has reported as many as 600 European GPs are currently in the ‘pipeline’ to work in England, according to recruiters working with the NHS.
BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said the announcement ‘falls far short of what is needed’ and ‘this initiative will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas staff’.
He said: ‘We know there are chronic staff shortages and rota gaps across the NHS, with major recruitment problems in areas such as emergency medicine and general practice.
‘The Government must tackle the root causes of this workforce crisis and the reasons why so many UK-trained doctors are considering leaving the NHS rather than forcing doctors to stay in the health service. Demotivated, burnt-out doctors who don’t want to be in their jobs, will not be good for patients.”