This site is intended for health professionals only

Government denies u-turn on promise to double medical school places

Government denies u-turn on promise to double medical school places

The Government has denied claims of a u-turn on its promise to double medical school places to 15,000 by 2031. 

On Sunday, The Observer reported that plans to increase medical school places by 350 in 2025/26 fall short of what universities expected, and is ‘less than a quarter’ of the number widely anticipated.

The trajectory laid out in the long-term workforce plan suggests that the Government has indeed fallen short on its promise but not to the extent of these claims. 

In December, health minister Andrew Stephenson wrote to the independent higher education regulator, the Office for Students, to confirm that the Government will fund an additional 350 medical school places in the 2025/26 academic year. 

This builds on the 205 additional places for 2024/25 confirmed by the Government in October

Last year’s long-awaited workforce plan mapped training intake increases over the next eight years up until 2031.

By 2021, the Government and NHS England promised to achieve 8,200 medical places, which is an increase of 700 from the current baseline (7,500).

This means that based on the confirmed increases for the next two academic years, by September 2025, the Government will have failed to meet its target with a shortfall of 145 places. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said The Observer’s claims were ‘highly misleading’ and that the Government is ‘on track’ to deliver its workforce pledge to double the number of places by 2021.

They added: ‘We are increasing capacity incrementally up to 2031, rather than dividing the additional 7,500 evenly over the years – and the workforce plan sets out the planned trajectories for training intakes.’

In his letter, the health minister said the 350 additional places in 2025 come ‘in advance of the larger scale expansion from 2026/27’. 

However, he also told the regulator the additional places may not be guaranteed for future years. 

The letter said: ‘We would expect the allocation of the additional 205 places for AY2024/25 and the 350 places for AY2025/26 to be carried over into the intakes of the schools in question for subsequent years, but this will be subject to review.’

Universities and medical schools will not be provided with any new capital funding to help accommodate the extra places, the letter confirmed. 

The long-term workforce plan, published in June last year, also committed to increasing GP training places in England by 50% to 6,000 by 2031. 

Mr Stephenson urged higher education providers delivering medical training to focus on ‘supporting general practice and other shortage specialties’.

From autumn this year, Portsmouth will host a new medical school which aims to address the city’s ‘severe shortage’ of GPs.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David Church 26 February, 2024 6:41 pm

It’s not a U-turn at all.
By shortening the course requirement from a doctor-training 6 years to a PA-training 2-years, they have shortened the time spent in medical school, hence increasing throughput, and effectively more than doubling number of places.