Length of doctors’ training should be slashed from seven years to fix staffing crisis, says NHS boss
- Richard Meddings suggested new medics were over-qualified after seven years
The time it takes to qualify as a doctor should be slashed to plug staffing gaps, the chairman of NHS England has said.
Richard Meddings suggested new medics were over-qualified after seven years of training because ‘most’ did not get to use their full skills on the job.
The former banker, who took up his role a year ago, said the NHS has fewer doctors and nurses than other developed countries.
He acknowledged that the lack of staff combined with an ‘exponential’ rise in demand from an ageing population had created a ‘capacity issue’.
Mr Meddings said vacancies could be filled by accelerating training for doctors or employing more support staff, such as ‘physician associates’, who do not have medical degrees. Mr Meddings made his remarks during a panel discussion on the future of the NHS at the Social Market Foundation think-tank.
NHS England chairman Richard Meddings suggested new medics were over-qualified after seven years of training because ‘most’ did not get to use their full skills on the job
Asked if it should be possible to train a doctor in less than seven years, he said: ‘I would have thought so. Or you go to physician associates – so you change the skill levels.’
Trainee doctors spend five years at medical school followed by two years on placement doing their foundation training. Once qualified, they can specialise and spend around another eight years working to become a consultant.
Mr Meddings said the NHS needed to expand its workforce, comparing it unfavourably with other Western countries.
He added: ‘We have 15 per cent fewer doctors and 25 per cent fewer nurses than the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average relative to population… so you can see there is a capacity issue.’
Former health minister Lord Warner called for an overhaul of NHS staffing, amid a backdrop of 124,000 vacancies.
British GPs have the highest stress levels and lowest job satisfaction compared with doctors in nine other high-income countries, a study by the Health Foundation charity found
He said: ‘What we’ve never done is look at whether we need seven years to train a doctor. France does it in five years and if you go to America you are likely to be seen by a physician associate much of the time.’
But the British Medical Association warned it risked patient safety and diluted the quality of the medical workforce.
The BMA’s Professor David Strain said: ‘There is a serious workforce crisis in the NHS that needs to be urgently addressed, but compromising the time taken to train and educate medical students is not the solution.
‘Cutting the length of training time will compromise education, and reduce the comprehensiveness of patient care.’
The Government is preparing to publish a 15-year NHS workforce strategy, which is expected to set out plans for thousands more medical and nursing apprentices who do much of their learning on the job.
- British GPs have the highest stress levels and lowest job satisfaction compared with doctors in nine other high-income countries, a study by the Health Foundation charity found. They reported higher levels of emotional distress and bigger rises in workload than their counterparts in nearly all other countries, with many considering leaving the job altogether.
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