Doctors Could Qualify Under Apprenticeship Scheme

Peter Russell

March 15, 2021

Editor's note, 19 March 2021: The poll in this article has now closed and the results are published here.

Doctors in England could be able to qualify through an apprenticeship without the need for a traditional medical degree under plans being drafted by health officials.

Health Education England (HEE) confirmed that it was currently working with employers, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, the Medical Schools Council, the GMC, and other stakeholders on developing a medical apprenticeship.

The scheme would allow aspiring doctors to earn money while training.

Apprentices would still be expected to complete a degree, "but via a different route than medical school", a spokesperson for HEE said.

Increasing Diversity

Prof Liz Hughes, HEE's deputy medical director, said: "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."

Prof Wendy Reid, acting chief executive at HEE, told the Health Service Journal (HSJ), which first reported the plans, that the medical apprenticeships would be “very similar to traditional apprenticeships where if you are older or you have commitments where you can't suddenly go off and spend 5 or 6 years as a [student], then this is a way of learning differently".

She said the scheme would "suit people who have been in work for some time, either in a health service related role or indeed in other work".

Apprenticeships are already used in the NHS both for new starters and existing members of staff, "allowing learners the opportunity to gain a qualification and apply their learning while continuing to earn a salary".

Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017, HEE said it had worked with employers, government bodies, and trade unions to promote apprenticeships in the NHS.

'Worthy of Consideration'

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it had long campaigned for "widening participation in medicine so that everyone with the ability and desire to become a doctor, has the opportunity to do so".

A spokesperson added: "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."

The BMA said it was looking forward to hearing more details from HEE and the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education and exploring the proposals in detail.

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