Has plan to double English medical students stalled so ‘physician associates’ can be installed instead?

Physician associate: training for these not-doctors is cropping up all over the place (this is at Chester University), while a government promise to fund more places for trainee doctors has proved to be economical with the truth.

A plan to increase the number of trainee doctors in England to 15,000 by 2031 has stalled, with only 350 places funded for 2025-6 – just a quarter of the expected annual total.

Ministers have dramatically stalled plans to double the number of doctors being trained in England by 2031 in a move that has caused dismay across the NHS, as well in medical schools and universities.

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In June last year, ministers backed a long-term plan to expand the NHS workforce and pledged, amid great fanfare, to “double medical school places by 2031 from 7,500 today to 15,000, with more medical school places in areas with the greatest shortages to level up training and help address geographic inequity”. Labour is also committed to raising the number of doctors to 15,000 by 2031.

But a leaked letter written jointly by health minister Andrew Stephenson and the minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, Robert Halfon, to the independent regulator the Office for Students, says they will fund only 350 additional places for trainee doctors in 2025-26. This is less than a quarter of the annual number widely anticipated and there is no guarantee that even that level of resource will be repeated.

This Writer never believes any “long-term plan” announced by a government; these always seem to be bids for short-term boosts in popularity. Last year’s announcement about medical students seems a perfect example.

I also wonder whether the Tories are trying to save money by force-replacing doctors with controversial ‘physician associates’ – under-qualified substitutes for doctors whose decisions have proved dangerous, and occasionally fatal.

Source: Government delays plans to double number of medical students in England | NHS | The Guardian

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