UK doctors could qualify without a traditional medical degree under controversial plans to allow medics to “earn as they learn” as apprentices, reports The Daily Telegraph. Health officials hope the proposals will help boost workforce diversity, particularly those from poorer backgrounds and people looking to change careers.
Apprenticeships have already been introduced for nursing, allowing recruits to earn on the ward, while undergoing a four-year training course.
Health Education England (HEE) said in the report that early talks had taken place to allow doctors to earn while they train, instead of having to pay tuition fees in medical school. Apprentices would still have to follow the same curriculum as those doing traditional medical degrees, it is understood.
According to The Daily Telegraph, health officials said the scheme could attract those who had lacked the time or money to undertake a traditional medical degree but stressed that discussions were at an early stage. It is understood that there will not be a national apprenticeship model, meaning employers and medical schools can decide their own entry requirements.
Professor Liz Hughes, deputy medical director for undergraduate education at Health Education England, is quoted in the report as saying: “We are working with employers, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, Medical Schools Council, the GMC and a number of other stakeholders on developing a medical apprenticeship.
“A proposal is currently in the early stages of development and there will be significant opportunities to help shape and implement the plans. The expectation is that such an apprenticeship could make the profession more accessible, more diverse and more representative of local communities while retaining the same high standards of training.”
If launched, the apprenticeship will be funded through the apprenticeship levy – a Government pot of cash introduced in 2017 to fund apprenticeships for all employers in England with a pay bill of more than £3m.
A letter sent by British Medical Association (BMA) council member Chris Smith to the unionʼs medical students committee, discussing the proposals, says that apprentices would still have to follow the same curriculum as those doing traditional medical degrees.
It also raises some reservations about the idea, saying that those who failed to get into medical school might see apprenticeships as “backup”, suggesting this could lead to apprenticeships being seen as “lesser”.
According to a BMA letter concerning the proposal, apprentices will be required to meet the same GMC standards as current medical students, so “medical curricular would not differ between studentships and apprenticeships”. It is also suggested that employers and medical schools will be able to decide their own entry requirements.
A BMA spokesperson said: “Proposals for a medical doctor apprenticeship that results in doctors educated and trained to the same high standards as current studentships are interesting and worthy of consideration.
“We look forward to hearing more from HEE and the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education and exploring these proposals in detail.”
Full report in The Daily Telegraph (Restricted access)