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22 June, 2024
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Doctors without degrees: The NHS apprenticeship revolution

New apprenticeship scheme offers a radical alternative to traditional medical school

Aspiring doctors and nurses may soon have the opportunity to work in the UK's National Health Service (NHS) without going to university, according to recent revelations. This proposal aims to address the workforce crisis currently faced by the struggling health service.

Tens of thousands of medical professionals could enroll in an apprenticeship scheme, allowing them to "earn while they learn" in the coming years. Officials estimate that up to 10% of doctors and one-third of nurses could eventually be trained through this alternative approach to recruitment. The full details of the plan are expected to be disclosed in the forthcoming long-term workforce plan, potentially within weeks.

NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard, during a visit to her former school in Durham, urged school leavers to consider pursuing a career in the NHS. These developments arise amidst ongoing tensions between the government and healthcare professionals concerning strike action and compensation. The Royal College of Nursing has also confirmed its intention to ballot members for further strikes after rejecting a proposed pay increase.

Critics have voiced concerns that this new apprenticeship model might compromise the standards of medical education, questioning its feasibility on a large scale. NHS leaders hope that these plans will help achieve self-sufficiency in staffing and reduce reliance on overseas recruits, which currently account for a quarter of new hires. The NHS currently faces 124,000 vacancies across various healthcare roles.

The pilot scheme for the apprenticeship proposal is set to commence in September this year, with nurses, paramedics, and other healthcare staff receiving on-the-job training for five years before taking the same medical student exam to become doctors.

Medical professionals have stressed the need for a substantial increase in traditional medical school placements, postgraduate training pathways, and adequate resources to effectively address the NHS's challenges. The final workforce plan, expected in the summer, is anticipated to include a funded expansion of nursing in universities, prioritizing degree-educated nurses to ensure optimal patient outcomes.

[Information sourced from the Daily Mail]

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