GP training places in England will increase by 50% to 6,000 by 2031, the NHS’s first-ever long-term workforce plan will pledge.
Over the next five years, the number of GP training places will rise by 25%, the document due to be published in the morning will say.
Other measures of note will include the expansion of apprenticeship routes to qualify for NHS clinical roles, and a plan to train more advanced paramedics for same-day emergency care.
And the GMC will consult on four-year medical degree courses that would allow medical students to join the NHS workforce six months earlier.
GP trainees will also spend their whole training in general practice, the plan will say.
The 15-year plan will be backed by a £2.4bn investment from the Government ‘to fund additional education and training places over five years on top of existing funding commitments’, NHS England said.
The plan is also expected to include GP retention measures although the RCGP said the ‘devil will be in the detail’ as well ‘delivery’.
The document will set out plans for the next 15 years but NHS England said it will need to be updated every two years as circumstances change.
The plan will also set out long-term staffing projections, warning that without action a current shortfall of NHS staff of 112,000 could grow to 360,000 by 2037 due the ‘growing and ageing population, coupled with new treatments and therapies’.
As pledged, the Government-commissioned plan aims to reduce the NHS’s reliance on overseas recruitment and costly agency staff.
In response, England will:
- double medical school training places to 15,000 by 2031, with more places in areas with the greatest shortages
- increase the number of GP training places by 50% to 6,000 by 2031
- almost double the number of adult nurse training places by 2031, with 24,000 more nurse and midwife training places a year by 2031.
Coupled with yet-to-be-seen retention measures, this could mean an extra 60,000 doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more allied health professionals in place by 2036/37, NHS England said.
On widening access to clinical staff training, one in six (16%) of all training places will offered through apprenticeships by 2028 – including more than 850 medical students.
Other measures included in the plan
- Investment in new technology to ‘free up staff to focus on using their expertise to help patients’.
- An expert group will be set to ‘harness advances in AI’.
- Trainees ‘will be on wards and in practices sooner’, with plans to work with the GMC and medical schools to consult on the introduction of four-year medical degrees and medical internships, ‘allowing students to start work six months earlier’.
- More student nurses will be able to take up jobs as soon as they graduate in May, rather than waiting until September, ‘with more reaching the frontline and treating patients more quickly’.
- New medical schools could open up in areas of the country where there is the greatest staffing shortfall, with similar plans for postgraduate medical training places.
- Training of around 150 additional advanced paramedics annually, including to support the delivery of same day emergency care.
- Expand training places for clinical psychology and child and adolescent psychotherapy, on a path to increasing by more than a quarter to over 1,300 by 2031.
Source: NHS England press release
The plan will be ‘one of the most significant announcements in the history of the NHS’, the Prime Minister has said, while staff close to the health secretary told media outlets it would have a focus on tech including ‘robot receptionists’.
RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said: ‘The NHS relies on its people and has been in dire need of a long-term workforce plan to ensure it not only exists but is thriving in years to come.
‘We look forward to seeing the full plan, but what we’re hearing are some encouraging proposals, including that it will contain initiatives to retain GPs and our teams in the profession, as well as recruiting more.
‘The devil will be in the detail, and also the delivery – we need to see work begin to ensure this plan becomes a reality as a matter of urgency.’
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: ‘This is a truly historic day for the NHS in England – for 75 years, the extraordinary dedication, skill and compassion of NHS staff has been the backbone of the health service – and the publication of our first-ever NHS Long Term Workforce Plan now gives us a once in a generation opportunity to put staffing on sustainable footing for the years to come.
GMC chair Charlie Massey – who has argued in favour of deploying SAS doctors in general practice – said: ‘Bringing more professionals into the system is vital for the long-term sustainability of the workforce. However, it is equally vital that we keep hold of the talent we already have, and that the needs and contribution of our existing doctors are not overlooked as the UK pipeline is developed – including the internationally qualified doctors who play such a vital role in patient care. Increasing medical school places also cannot come without a corresponding growth in trainer capacity. This is vital both for medical students and newer professions like physician associates and anaesthesia associates.’