Medical school places must double by 2030 to meet demand for doctors, college warns

Less than a year after the government announced the 'biggest ever expansion' of medical schools to create 7,500 student places by 2020, experts have warned that figure must double by 2030 to meet demand for doctors.

GP trainee (Photo: iStock)
GP trainee (Photo: iStock)

A report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), sets out calculations on current supply, future service demand and predicted losses from the medical workforce. Based on its projections, training places need to be increased from 7,500 to 15,000 to cater for a rapidly evolving NHS.

The call for medical school places to be doubled by 2030 comes just under a year after the DHSC announced it would raise the cap on medical school places from 6,000 to 7,500 by 2020 - a change hailed by ministers as the 'biggest ever expansion' of training.

GP numbers have fallen steadily since health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to increase the workforce by 5,000 full-time equivalent GPs by 2020/21 - with more than 1,000 fewer GPs now than in September 2015.

Part-time working

The RCP calculations highlight that part-time working among doctors will mean even greater numbers of doctors need to be trained than in the past. The college says that physicians account for around a third of UK consultants - 15,700 out of 47,800. Just over one in five work less than full time.

Among GPs, meanwhile, a 2016 King's Fund study found that just a third of trainees planned to work full time in clinical work one year after qualification, with just one in 10 planning full-time clinical work 10 years after qualification - although many planned to take on other roles as part of portfolio careers.

The RCP report also cites the ageing patient population, rising numbers of patients with multiple long-term conditions and a surge in demand as reasons why more doctors are needed.

RCP president Professor Dame Jane Dacre will say on Monday: ‘I believe that we have reached the limit of what we can do as a college to influence the workload in individual trusts. There is only one conclusion and only one solution. We need more of us… A lot more of us.’

Medical schools

Considering other areas of the healthcare profession are under similar levels of pressure and experiencing similar workforce shortfalls, Professor Dame Dacre will add: ‘A conservative estimate is that we will need 7,500 extra medical students a year – twice the current intake and 227 per medical school.’

RCP registrar and president-elect Dr Andrew Goddard, who conducted the research, said: ‘If we’re to meet the needs of patients by 2030 from a home grown source we really don’t have any choice but to double our medical student numbers because quitting on the workforce issue is not an option.’

Earlier this month, HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming announced that a record number of trainee GPs were recruited in 2018.

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