Intended for healthcare professionals


Hunt promises 25% more medical students in 2018

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 11 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5480
  1. Chris McManus, professor of psychology and medical education
  1. Research Department of Medical Education, Medical School, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  1. i.mcmanus{at}

Now we need more details, more money, and perhaps more time

In a move that surprised English medical schools, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told the Conservative Party’s annual conference last week that “From September 2018, we will train up to 1500 more doctors every year.”1

Without further policy details on this 25% increase, there is an uncanny similarity to Theresa May’s gnomic mantra, “Brexit means Brexit.” The only certainty is, “1500 means 1500; 2018 means 2018.” A political backstory may emerge, but here I will consider the historical context, reasons for the increase, and important implications—not least for those charged with implementing it.

For seven decades, official reports have tried to plan medical workforce numbers, from Goodenough (1944), Willink (1957), and Todd (1968) through committees in 1978, 1980, 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997, and 2006, to the Health and Education National Strategic Exchange2 in 2012. Some reports use complex flow models and futurology, but conclusions are still fragile. Extreme outcomes include the 1997 report increasing student numbers by 1000 (20%) and creating two new medical schools and, conversely, the absurd tinkering of 2012 that reduced student numbers …

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