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Target to add 1,500 medical school places ‘will only add 750 doctors’

The Government’s aim to open 1,500 more medical training places by 2021 will only create 750 more full-time equivalent consultants or GPs, a think-tank has said.

A report from Reform, a public services think-tank, calls on the Government to completely lift the cap on training places because high turnover rates and ‘less than full time working’ mean the number of trainees needs to be increased ‘substantially’ to fill vacancies.

Reform’s report claims that the NHS could train twice as many doctors – increasing the number of places from 6,000 to 12,000 each year – and not spend any additional money doing so.

The report said: ‘By removing the cap on training places, the NHS could produce a sufficient or excess number of trained individuals that it could employ.’

The think-tank said the additional training cost of £140m a year would be balanced by a fall in spend on agency staff (which currently stand at £1.3bn annually); reductions in the cost of individual training places; and repayments of training costs by some doctors.

It recommends medical students should have to pay back £12,000 per year for each year spent working for a non-NHS employer or locum agency for up to 10 years.

It also says the Government’s claim that it costs £230,000 to train a doctor ‘suggests that there are great efficiencies to be made’, as institutions like Buckingham University are providing training at a much-lower total cost of £162,000.

Kate Laycock, senior researcher at Reform, said: ‘The Government can’t reduce its spending on agency staff unless it lifts the cap on trainee doctor numbers.’

The think-tank’s warning comes as the head of HEE recently warned that young GPs are willing to work fewer hours than their older counterparts, resulting in the equivalent of 10% fewer doctors in the workforce.

Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of HEE, said the organisation will be ensuring ‘that the 25% increase in medical undergraduate places, the largest ever increase of its kind, will produce doctors providing the right care in the right places that will be required for the future’.