Up to 1,500 extra NHS doctors to be trained every year

An extra 1,500 medical school places are to be announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a bid to tackle the NHS recruitment crisis.

Mr Hunt will remove the current 6,000-a-year cap on training new doctors to help make NHS England "self-sufficient" by the middle of the next decade.

"From September 2018, we will train up to 1,500 more doctors every year, increasing the number of medical school places by up to a quarter," Mr Hunt will say in a speech at the Conservative conference in Birmingham

"Of course it will take a number of years before those doctors qualify, but by the end of the next Parliament we will make the NHS self-sufficient in doctors."

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the extra places were short of what is needed., while Labour said the NHS needs more investment.

Mr Hunt will also announce a new requirement for all doctors trained on the NHS to work for the service for a minimum of four years after graduation.

The NHS is currently facing a recruitment crisis. Credit: PA

The recruitment drive is estimated to cost £100 million by 2020, but could sharply reduce the £1.2 billion a year spent on medical locums, many of them from overseas.

NHS hospitals rely heavily on foreign doctors, who currently make up 25% of the medical workforce, and spend £3.3 billion a year on agency staff, including locums.

Mr Hunt will tell the conference: "Currently a quarter of our doctors come from overseas. They do a fantastic job and we have been clear that we want EU nationals who are already here to be able to stay post-Brexit.

"But is it right to import doctors from poorer countries that need them whilst turning away bright home graduates desperate to study medicine?"

Aspiring doctors will be able to apply for the new places from the 2017/18 academic year to start their courses in September 2018.

BMA council chairman Mark Porter said: "We desperately need more doctors, particularly with the Government plans for further seven-day services, but it will take a decade for extra places at medical school to produce more doctors.

"This initiative will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas staff."

Diane Abbott said the NHS needs more investment. Credit: PA

Royal College of Physicians president Professor Jane Dacre said the increase in medical school places "will help relieve many of the pressures faced by the NHS in the long term, and support a more sustainable workforce".

The chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, Maureen Baker, called for assurances that the boost for hospital doctors would be matched by measures to ensure sufficient numbers of family doctors, whose teams make up 90% of patient contacts in the NHS.

Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said: "Training more doctors and nurses here is a good idea, but it will need additional money and the Tories are cutting £22 billion from the NHS budget.

"The idea we can be self-sufficient in medical staff is ridiculous. An additional 1,500 doctors' training places only scratches the surface of the professionals that are needed to staff our health service."