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GP careers to become ‘more accessible’ via new apprenticeship programme

GP careers to become ‘more accessible’ via new apprenticeship programme

Health Education England (HEE) is in the early stages of creating an apprenticeship programme which would enable candidates to become doctors without undertaking a traditional undergraduate medical degree.

HEE said the programme, which will allow trainee doctors to earn while they train, was aimed at making the profession ‘more accessible’ to those who are kept from undertaking a medical degree due to financial and time constraints. 

And the programme, which results in candidates getting an undergraduate medical degree, is set to have a ‘heavy primary care focus’, according to a letter about the plans sent by the BMA to its medical students committee this week.

The apprenticeship will ‘retain the same high standards of training’ but could make the profession more ‘accessible, diverse and representative of local communities’, HEE deputy medical director Professor Liz Hughes told Pulse.

If launched, the apprenticeship will be funded through the apprenticeship levy – a Government pot of cash introduced in 2017 to fund apprenticeships for all employers in England with a pay bill of more than £3m. 

Professor Hughes told Pulse: ‘We are working with employers, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, Medical Schools Council, the GMC and a number of other stakeholders on developing a medical apprenticeship.  

‘A proposal is currently in the early stages of development and there will be significant opportunities to help shape and implement the plans.

‘The expectation is that such an apprenticeship could make the profession more accessible, more diverse and more representative of local communities while retaining the same high standards of training.’

According to a BMA letter concerning the proposal, seen by HSJ, apprentices will be required to meet the same GMC standards as current medical students, so ‘medical curricular would not differ between studentships and apprenticeships’.

It is also suggested that employers and medical schools will be able to decide their own entry requirements.

A BMA spokesperson said: ‘Proposals for a medical doctor apprenticeship that results in doctors educated and trained to the same high standards as current studentships are interesting and worthy of consideration.

‘We look forward to hearing more from HEE and the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education and exploring these proposals in detail.’

It comes as in 2016, then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a learn-on-the-job, tuition-free apprenticeship programme for practice nurses.



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

Sally Rushton 12 March, 2021 6:57 pm

Oh I know here’s an idea. Let’s give students a grant and realistic living expenses that they don’t have to pay back!!!

Reply moderated
Rachel Pettinger 12 March, 2021 11:01 pm

As a GP Trainee in 1988 (now called GP Registrars) I was introduced to all the members of my new team, including the gardener, a lovely down to earth man, who’s response was:
“I didn’t know you could do ‘Doctoring’ on the YT!”
(referring to the 1980s Youth Training scheme)

Well it seems like you’ll soon be able to!
How the world turns!

Darren Tymens 12 March, 2021 11:12 pm

More dumbing down of the profession, and a sign of how little we (and indeed any body with ‘expert knowledge’) are valued.
What’s next from the Workforce Problem Random Solution Generator operating at HEE?
– Let PAs and HCAs do a two-day ‘conversion course’ to become a doctor?
– Deregulate the profession and let anyone practise?
– Offer medical qualifications by a lottery system?
– Allow people to trade in an Arts degree and three pokemon cards for a Medical degree?
– Send MB BChir’s to anyone who can fill out a form on a website?
– Allow anyone who can rub their tummy and pat their head at the same time to become a neurosurgeon?
I suspect this will pay a pittance or subsistence wages, whilst allowing the government to claim they are boosting the workforce. Apprentices will take years to train, and require lots and lots of direct supervision while making minimal contribution to workload.
There is a reason basic medical training takes years, and is a graduate-entry training in many countries. You would think HEE understood this.

Reply moderated
Stephen Brown 13 March, 2021 2:44 am

Broadening access to a career in medicine is important but not by dumbing down the curriculum. General Practice requires broad knowledge and understanding to work well, it smacks of whoever has planned this as seeing GP as acceptable to be done vocationally, but not other medical specialties??? I cannot see how any vocational training could match the rigor of 5 years of medical school, then at least 5 years of clinical experience.

Turn out The lights 13 March, 2021 5:31 am

Scraping the barrel to find 5000 new GP as stopped,let’s smash the barrel up to look underneath.The system is broken.HEE is broken GP is broken finished.Rome has burnt to the ground and the fiddlers song has finished.Bankrupt.

Malcolm Kendrick 13 March, 2021 9:54 am

Well, we all know where this ends up, don’t we. A stepwise process whereby, within about five years, physios and paramedics and nurses can become doctors without the effort and costs of a medical degree. Maybe a two month prescribing course and a two month clinical examination course and that’s that. So long medicine as a career. The BMA ought to fight this tooth and nail, but they will not. They will actively encourage and support it.

Andrew Jackson 13 March, 2021 11:44 am

I am a GP Trainer and will not do this

Andrew Jackson 13 March, 2021 11:53 am

Come on everyone
we all know GP is easy and overpaid. all we need to know is how to prescribe a few antibiotics. There’s no real pathology out there and if there is it is all managed in hospital outpatients. Anyone can advise the other members of the primary health care team. Anyone can make an EOL decision. Anyone can build and lead a practice over many years. Anyone can multitask 20 patient contacts a session on average. All my GP Trainees are desperate for us to shorten training as it is so easy.
This is such a great idea and means we can all stop worrying about the workforce of the future.
Why all the complaints? This shows how respected we are and how they understand the training needs of an effective primary care practitioner and ICS will make this easy to happen.

Dave Haddock 13 March, 2021 12:56 pm

An alternative to the ghastly RCGP model long overdue, particularly if it involves actually seeing patients.

John Glasspool 13 March, 2021 2:48 pm

Call the, “Apothecaries” perhaps? Pay them less, of course.

A non 14 March, 2021 8:34 am

A camouflaged, stealth and dishonest way of getting rid of Drs in primary care…create a new role that isn’t a Dr and call them GPs..make out like they’re exactly the same as the ‘GPs’ who are Drs, pretend they’re equivalent and continually refer to them as the ‘same thing’ . Leave it a few years so everyone gets thoroughly confused and unsure exactly what a GP is anyway, gradually replace all the old ‘GP’ Drs with new GP ‘whatsanames’ and watch as all the Dr GPs leave, retire or die. Hey presto ! A nice cheap primary care service with loads of ‘GPs’! Just what the politicians promised! Who cares if its any good – thats not what this is for, and you dont need Drs in primary care anyway hey? , differentiating undiagnosed illness from wellness is the easiest step in medicine surely – any newly qualified hospital Dr knows that
..and they think A&E is busy now??! Just wait a few more years ha ha ha !!

A non 14 March, 2021 11:33 am

“an apprenticeship programme which would enable candidates to become doctors without undertaking an undergraduate medical degree.” ..just to clarify for anyone who missed that bit

Jing Liu 14 March, 2021 7:35 pm

Why don’t they give free Higher education to everyone like civilised societies do?! Why lower standards of healthcare, and lower public faith in the profession?

I will leave for Ireland or Canada if they force this short-sighted ‘policy’ through. It’s called gambling with lives.

David Mummery 14 March, 2021 10:01 pm

I agree with A non

Dan Spencer 15 March, 2021 9:27 am

Simply a horrifying idea.
A doctor without a medical degree! (the only country in the world where this would be possible)
The degree provides the core knowledge in the base sciences that form the foundation of further learning. This will seriously undermine medical education in the UK.
Just consider that nursing has done the opposite to this and made a degree a requirement to raise standards!
If medical school fees area a barrier to assess then subsidise them.

Dan Spencer 15 March, 2021 9:28 am


Valerie Jane Philip 16 March, 2021 11:15 am

More medical school places for the many excellent 18+year olds who aspire to be doctors but fail to get a place not because they aren’t good enough but because we simply don’t have enough places.
GP trainers have enough to do supervising ST 1, 2 and 3, and don’t have capacity to take on these “apprentices” staring from a much lower base, and medico-legally?? Don’t get me started.
And what if these poor (in every sense of the word) apprentices? To achieve the ‘same high standards’ as someone doing 6 years intense undergrad medicine, “earning as they learn” really? Working as a NHS DOGSBODY burning midnight oil on biochemistry and pharmacology?
Let’s have more med school places, let’s widen access, let’s give financial support to med students and do a proper job training them.
Say no to second rate second class “doctors on the cheap”

Victoria Cleak 17 March, 2021 7:19 pm

I can’t understand why all the royal colleges haven’t got together to say no to this. Surely the average person on the street would be horrified by this too?
Nurses spent years banging on about the value of a degree to do nursing and now medicine is going the opposite way. It’s bananas. We are already undertaking an apprenticeship and being paid to learn. This plan is just a total undermining of the profession which started at the point you could become a consultant via article 14

Slobbering Spaniel 18 March, 2021 5:10 pm

Who comes up with these ideas? It’s either an idea created by a group of academics with little grasp on reality and are unable to see the ramifications of it? Or do they want to see how such an idea would be received and we are being played? Or is it the ultimate middle finger to GPs , who do a job which they feel can be done without a medical degree ?

Charles Richards 19 March, 2021 4:27 pm

Lets prescribe anything and everything asked for, let’s investigate any hint of a sniffle to the hilt and finally refer EVERYONE to hospital, that’ll save money and shorten waits! Not.

Primary care is the one and only part of the NHS other countries do envy. So why attack hamper undermine and damage it?