By Leonie Stanton
A young mum from Leeds says her dreams of becoming a doctor could come true following Jeremy Hunt’s announcement to increase numbers of medical trainees.
Jennifer Watson, 20, a carer from Halton, has applied to study medicine at the University of Leeds and has welcomed the health secretary’s plans, revealed on October 4.
She said: “There will be more opportunities, it will be less competitive and less ruthless hopefully, allowing people to focus on passion and ability.”
However, the government’s proposals to boost medical school places by 25 per cent – an increase of 1,500 from the current 6,000 – have come under fire from some experts who say it will be pointless if the number of foreign doctors working in the UK is reduced.
Nigel Edwards, Nuffield Trust chief executive, said: “For decades, the NHS has failed to train enough of its own staff, so increasing the number of UK-trained staff is long overdue. But the huge contribution made by overseas doctors must continue to be recognised.
“If this new announcement involves simply replacing overseas doctors with UK-trained ones, that won’t increase the total number working in the NHS.”
Miss Watson agreed: “Increasing the numbers will do good in the long run, but I agree it’s too little too late.
“They need to make funding more widely available, because we need doctors just as much as we need nurses.
“But we need the foreign doctors too. They’ve got the same training as our doctors. If someone wants to come over here and do an amazing job, they should have the opportunity to do so.”
Unions have also branded the plans “too little too late” and say they want to know where the money is coming from.
The NHS currently relies on foreign staff to increase workforce numbers but Mr Hunt will abolish the current cap on the total number of places that medical schools can offer, which is currently just over 6,000 a year.
The government released a statement which said: ‘Currently, we rely heavily on doctors from overseas – who do a fantastic job but are often taken from developing countries that need them – as well as expensive agency staff.
“By dramatically expanding our supply of home-grown doctors, we will ensure the NHS always has the doctors it needs.”
Jeremy Hunt’s proposal will make medicine degrees more accessible, which has been welcomed by aspiring doctors.
Mr Hunt said: “Currently, universities can only offer places to half of those who apply to study medicine, but this new measure will allow all domestic students with the academic grades, skills and capability to train as a doctor to have the chance to do so.”
The British Medical Association, a trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK, released the cost of training doctors. A statement said that clinical placement costs over £150,000 per trainee within the NHS.
Peter Carol, a representative for the Yorkshire branch of Unison, the public service union, said: “It is unclear where the budget will come from.”
Mr Hunt wants to increase the number of UK trained doctors to improve the quality of care patients receive.
Leeds General Infirmary and St James’ Hospital currently ‘require improvement’ according to the inspection rating by the Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator for health and social care in England.
Cheryl Collymore, 47, a support worker from Leeds, has been referred several times to see a specialist for a knee injury.
Cheryl said: “I was referred over four months ago. I never heard anything and I had to go again. I know that the waiting list is long. I’m going to have to wait even longer now.
“This announcement is too little too late really. The training and opportunity should have been there years ago. It’s just not realistic really.”