Shorter medical training post-Brexit would be safety risk, warns BMA

Medical training in the UK should not be shortened to plug workforce gaps in the wake of Brexit, the BMA has warned.

In a letter to health minister Stephen Barclay, the BMA warned against plans to reduce the length of medical training - which could see doctors' registration brought forward by a year.

Currently, doctors in the UK gain full registration with the GMC after successfully completing their first year as a junior doctor, during which time they hold provisional registration. However, Mr Barclay has suggested full registration could be granted to UK doctors as soon as they graduate from medical school.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Barclay said that ministers were considering the move in an attempt to boost staff numbers whilst simultaneously cutting training costs post-Brexit.

This comes just days after a GPonline poll revealed that half of GPs think that the duration of GP training should be increased.

In a letter to Mr Barclay, BMA representative body chair Dr Anthea Mowat said: ‘It is vital that the quality of medical education and training and standards of patient care are maintained post Brexit. The BMA firmly believes that moving the point of a doctor’s full registration with the GMC (General Medical Council) would seriously dilute the quality of our current training programmes – such a move would be a mistake.’


Under EU rules, students are required to have a minimum of five years’ medical education before they are registered. This includes a year working in a clinical setting as a junior doctor. Dr Mowat’s letter continues:

‘Doctors undertake some of their most intensive and useful learning during this year (F1). The pressure of responsibility helps them to obtain crucial skills relating to real decision making, working under pressure and leading a clinical team. It is unrealistic to expect that changes to the undergraduate curriculum could offer an adequate substitute for this vital experience.

‘The transition from medical school to medical practice is one of the most challenging stages of a doctor’s career. It is likely that, if provisional registration were scrapped and the point of full registration moved to graduation, this transition would become even more difficult and patient safety would be put at risk. We do not, therefore, support any proposal to move the point of full registration to the point of graduation from medical school.’

The BMA has voiced concerns that - considering around 8% of the NHS workforce in England is made up of professionals who gained their primary medical qualification in the EEA - Brexit will only serve to exacerbate the current workforce problems and shortages, rather than providing opportunities.

Separately, Dr Mowat said: 'This proposal just looks like ministers are willing to put medical training and patient safety at risk just so they can claim a win on Brexit.'

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'Our medical training programmes are widely recognised as among the best in the world and we have no intention of lowering the quality of training that doctors receive. The minister was setting out a number of options to secure full registration with the professional regulator, the GMC, after doctors have completed the usual five years of undergraduate training.'

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