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.