Double the number of medical students to keep NHS afloat, health chiefs say

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The NHS needs to double the number of medical students in training to avoid collapse, doctors’ leaders have said.

Surging obesity and an “explosion” in genomic medicine means the number of new students entering medical school each year should rise to 15,000, according to the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

In a new analysis, the first of its kind, the college said the health service will require at least 7,120 extra senior hospital doctors by 2030 to cope with a predicted 47 per cent rise in demand.

To meet the extra need by then, health chiefs would need to take steps towards doubling the medical school intake this year.

While around 220 consultants currently retire each year, the number is expected to increase to 680 within 12 years, a figure compounded by an forecast doubling of those leaving the profession before retirement.

The RCP said high workload, low morale due to the recent high-profile prosecution of doctors, as well as Brexit impacts were all fuelling the trend.

The NHS is currently short of 2,330 consultants, the report found.

Addressing the RCP’s annual conference on Monday, the body’s incoming president, Dr Andrew Goddard, said: “‘If we’re to meet the needs of patients by 2030 from a home grown source we really don’t have any choice but to double our medical student numbers because. Quitting on the workforce issue is not an option.”

Professor Jane Dacre, the current president, will say bosses can no longer “pretend” the population will become healthier or that robots will make many medical jobs redundant.

“I’m not going to pretend any longer. We need more of us,” she will say.

Advances in genomics promise improved prevention and cures for patients, with doctors better able to tailor treatments to individual patients, however this is expected to demand more time from clinicians.

Currently the drop-out rate of medical students is around 5 per cent, meanwhile an estimated 10 per cent of junior doctors quit or go abroad before they enter specialist training to become consultants or GPs, according to the report.

A spokesman from for the Department of Health and Social Care said:  “We are absolutely committed to ensuring the NHS has the staff it needs to meet increasing patient demand both now and in the future.

“That’s why we announced a 25 per cent increase in training places for doctors, nurses and midwives, in addition to measures designed to retain and attract staff back to the NHS.

“This includes new arrangements to help staff work more flexibly to improve work-life balance, a Homes for Nurses scheme, and a well-deserved pay rise for over 1 million NHS staff.”

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