RCP Calls for Doubling of Medical School Places

Peter Russell

January 07, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to increase the number of doctors, nurses, and other clinicians in the NHS, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said.

On the first day of the RCP's Medicine 2021 conference, the College produced a blueprint for how to double the number of medical school places to get the NHS workforce back on a sustainable footing over the next decade.

The document, Double or quits: a blueprint for expanding medical school places, also called for an increase in beds and equipment across the health service.

Prof Andrew Goddard/RCP

The RCP said it welcomed a cash boost of £20 billion pledged to the NHS by the last Government but warned that delaying decisions about the NHS workforce until the postponed comprehensive spending review would have an impact on what the funding could achieve. In opening remarks to the conference, Prof Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, said he was a "strong advocate of trying to increase the number of medical students that we have, and believe strongly that we need to double from 7500 to 1500"

Among other recommendations, the blueprint recommended that the Government:

  • Ensured that an expansion of places and the process of allocating places incentivises an increased focus on widening participation in medicine

  • Build on the successful work of the previous expansion in which the UK Government announced in 2017 an increase of 1500 places to provide medical school education across the whole of England

  • Undertook further detailed work to fully understand the potential undergraduate applicant pool, asking UCAS to carry out research with potential applicants to medical school and other science subjects to understand the appetite for places and the perceptions of the entry process to medicine

  • Considered an increase in undergraduate foundation years for medicine as part of a strategic approach to NHS workforce planning

'Seize the Advantage'

Matt Hancock/RCP

In response, England's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said he welcomed that there was a "record number of medical students, right now".

He told delegates that "we should seize the advantage of the big increase in interest in medicine as a result of the pandemic".

Mr Hancock said attracting more people to a career in medicine would be good for patients and the NHS, "as well as creating that space to be able to both practise medicine but also be engaged in the development of medicine".

Prof Goddard commented: "The challenges our health service faces will not disappear overnight but if we do not act now we are storing up potentially bigger challenges for the future.

"More than that, investing in a sustainable NHS workforce is also investing in a healthier population and that is something I believe we are all ready to buy into."

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