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Medical school places in England from September 2018

Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017

This Commons Library research briefing provides information about the Government's to increase the number of medical school places in England by 1,500, starting from September 2018. This paper has been updated with details of the related Department of Health consultation, which opened on 14 March 2017.

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The issue

There are concerns that the number of medical school entrants may be insufficient to meet future workforce need. Medical education continues well beyond medical school, and there are also concerns about whether the right numbers of postgraduates are being trained in the right medical specialties.

The policy response

In October 2016, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt committed to an extra 1,500 medical school places in England, beginning in September 2018. In return for the increased number of places, he said that new doctors would be required to work in the NHS for four years. 

Bodies representing the medical profession have welcomed the move to increase the number of medical school places, but have also argued this will not address current workforce pressures; the new recruits will take at least 10 years to fully qualify as GPs, and longer to qualify as hospital specialists.

On 14 March 2017, the Department of Health opened a consultation on the plans. This proposed:

  • The allocation of 500 additional places in September 2018 at established providers, subject to Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) board approval.
  • Approximately 1,000 further places to be allocated from 2019/20. These would be allocated on the basis of bids from providers.

The consultation seeks views on how the additional places should be allocated. It also asks whether a ‘return to service’ condition should be introduced, i.e., a requirement for medical students to work for the NHS in England for a defined number of years after graduation, or else be required to pay back some of the funding invested in their education.

The consultation is due to close on 2 June 2017.

Admission to medical school

Entry to medical school is very competitive and institutions typically require very high 'A' Level (or equivalent) grades, as well as adequate performance on special medical admissions tests. There have been longstanding concerns that medicine, as a subject, remains particularly skewed toward more socio-economically advantaged entrants, and that latent capacity is being left untapped, despite initiatives to divesify student intakes.

This briefing relates to England.



Commons Briefing papers CBP-7914

Authors: Nerys Roberts; Paul Bolton

Topics: Health education and preventive medicine, Health staff and professions, Higher education

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