The number of medical school places will increase by 25% from 2018 under plans to make England “self-sufficient” in training doctors.
The government’s plan will see an expansion in training places from 6,000 to 7,500 a year.
Ministers believe increasing the number of home-grown doctors will be essential given the ageing population.
There is also concern it will become more difficult to recruit doctors trained abroad in the future.
About a quarter of the medical workforce is trained outside the UK, but the impact of Brexit and a global shortage of doctors could make it harder to recruit so many in the future.
Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC: “We want to see the NHS able to recruit doctors from this country. We want to see more British doctors in the NHS.”
The increase also comes after the government has spent a year at loggerheads with junior doctors over the pressures being placed on them to fill rota gaps.
Doctor Workforce In Numbers
Doctors Working In NHS
- 25% are foreign
- 9% due to retire in next five years
- 2% more needed each year to keep up with demand
- 7-10% of posts are vacant
Source: BBC, Civitas, NHS, DoH, GMC
Life On The Frontline
Dr Daniel Bunce, 27, is in his third year of being a junior doctor after completing his medical degree. He is now working in a hospital in the south west in intensive care.
He says he got into medicine because he wanted to “care for people and make a difference”.
“It’s been difficult. There is so much pressure, particularly during winter. We just don’t have the time to spend with patients that we need to provide the care we want to because we are rushing around just trying to keep up.
“I’m now working in intensive care so the staff to patient ratios is much better than it was when I was on medical wards. But the workload is making people I work with think about whether this is something they want to do for the rest of their career.
“The increase in medical school places is a good move, but we will have to see what impact it has in hospitals in the long-term.”
Medical degrees take five years to complete, so it will be 2024 before the impact of these extra places is felt.
But Mr Hunt told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday: “We need to prepare the NHS for the future, which means doing something we have never done properly before – training enough doctors.
“Currently a quarter of our doctors come from overseas. They do a fantastic job and we have been clear that we want EU nationals who are already here to stay post-Brexit.
“But is it right to import doctors from poorer countries that need them while turning away bright home graduates desperate to study medicine?”
Mr Hunt said the steps would mean that by the end of the next Parliament the health service in England would be “self-sufficient” when it comes to training doctors.