An extra 1,500 doctors a year will be trained in England under plans unveiled by the Department of Health.
The expansion of undergraduate training places aims to increase the home-grown medical workforce by 25% – the largest single increase in doctor training places in the history of the NHS.
Currently more than 6,000 university training places are available each year for prospective new doctors. This will increase by up to 1,500 each year from September 2018.
It costs £230,000 to train a doctor in England and proposals set out in a consultation earlier this week include plans to obtain a return on this investment.
The proposals include newly trained medics serving a minimum term with the NHS, with those who leave before this time is up having to repay some of the fees that the NHS invests in them.
A similar system is already used by the armed forces, which operates a “return of service” programme for certain professions. The consultation asks whether people think a similar system should be introduced to the NHS for doctor training courses and, if so, how long this minimum term of service should be.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We want our NHS to be the safest healthcare system in the world, being driven by talented doctors in the future just as it is now.
“By expanding our supply of home-grown doctors and proposing that they serve patients in the NHS for a minimum term, we will ensure taxpayer investment in the NHS is returned.
“While we are proud of our workforce, for too long the NHS has relied too heavily upon locum and agency doctors, and superb staff from overseas – all the while budding medics in England are turned away from medical school due to a lack of training places.”
Domestic students with the necessary grades and skills to train as a doctor will be able to apply for the extra places from next year in order to take them up in the academic year 2018 to 2019.
Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, added: “This major investment in undergraduate places is very welcome. The 25% increase in places is a clear commitment to a sustainable future home-grown medical workforce, making us self-sufficient in doctors for years to come, giving more young people from diverse backgrounds the chance to become a doctor. These extra places also give us the opportunity, with partners across health and education, to respond to NHS need, providing doctors in the specialties and places that patients need long into the future.”
The public consultation, expanding undergraduate medical education, is open until 2 June 2017.