Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing

Is Hunt’s plan to expand medical student numbers more than a party conference pipe dream?

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 12 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5488
  1. Joe Freer, editorial registrar, The BMJ
  1. jfreer{at}

Jeremy Hunt announced last week that the government will make the NHS “self sufficient” by training 1500 extra doctors a year in England, starting in 2018. Joe Freer examines the plans.

Will there be NHS jobs for the additional students once they graduate?

There are already more applicants than places for medical trainees after graduation. The Foundation Programme, two years of training that all UK graduates must complete before progressing to specialty training, has been oversubscribed every year since 2011. Despite the oversubscription, every year all applicants have obtained places as students’ plans changed or they failed exams. The number of applicants for specialty training also exceeds the number of posts available. In 2015, over 12 000 applicants applied for around 8000 specialty training posts.

At present, workforce planning does not fall within the remit of the UK Foundation Programme Office. Any plans to increase the number of training posts would need to be included in the Department of Health’s consultation on its proposals to expand medical school places, which will be launched later this year.

The government has proposed a four year mandatory NHS service commitment for graduating doctors. Is attrition even a problem?

There has been support for mandatory NHS service for several years from both inside and outside the medical profession. The government claims that it costs £220 000 (€240 000; $270 000) to train a doctor in the UK and views this policy as a way of safeguarding taxpayers’ money by ensuring that UK trained doctors don’t migrate to other countries. Half of general practitioners surveyed in 2015 supported some form of compulsory service.1 It is not without precedent. The armed forces and law and accountancy firms all require several years of mandatory employment in exchange for covering …

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