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Medical student boost effect on NHS under question

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the Conservative Party conference
HUNT: Plan to increase medical student numbers will ease staffing pressures

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been told that the increase in medical students will take much longer to benefit the NHS than he says.

Appearing before the Commons health select committee, Mr Hunt said his plan to increase medical student numbers in England by 1,500 per year from September 2018 would ease staffing pressures within six years.

But while the first new students will have graduated in this period, MPs on the committee pointed out how much longer it would take them to be fully trained as GPs or consultants – 11 and 15 years, respectively, from now, according to Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree Luciana Berger.

The BMA supports the increase in numbers in principle, but has raised a number of questions as to how the scheme will be funded, and its impact on medical schools and the wider profession.

Committee chair Sarah Wollaston also questioned whether the prime minister’s recent criticisms of GPs would hamper efforts to recruit doctors to primary care.

‘Many GPs felt very demoralised and concerned about what they saw as their being scapegoated for problems in [emergency care],’ she said.

Mr Hunt said the ‘comments were in part a sense of frustration shared throughout Government that some GP leaders had talked about scaling back GPs’ commitment to a seven-day NHS’.

BMA medical students committee co-chair Harrison Carter said: ‘There are a number of key questions with regard to this policy that are intrinsically related to the quality of publicly funded medical education in this country, and that remain unanswered.’

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