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Medical Students: University Places

Volume 724: debated on Tuesday 6 December 2022

14. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on increasing the number of university places for medical students; and if he will make a statement. (902621)

The Department has commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan. That plan will help to ensure that we have the right numbers of staff, including doctors with the right skills, to deliver high-quality services fit for the future. The plan will be independently verified. We have funded 1,500 more medical school places in England and opened five new medical schools in Sunderland, Lancashire, Chelmsford, Lincoln and Canterbury, and there are record numbers of medical students in training.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. He will know that it takes five or six gruelling years to get a Bachelor of Medicine or a Bachelor of Surgery degree—or Doctor of Medicine in Scotland—but many students, having graduated, think that they would prefer more structured development by working as hospital doctors. What can we do to encourage young graduates to go into general practice?

We have record numbers going into general practice, which is the remit of the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Neil O’Brien), but part of the plan is to make it more attractive through practice improvement through cloud-based telephony, the additional roles reimbursement scheme, the 24,000 extra staff in primary care, developing multi-function staff so that people can develop their skills and have specialism but still practise as a GP, increasing the use of pharmacy, moving towards more continuity of care and the new GP contract for 2024-25.

But when are we going to see the workforce plan? The other day I spoke to a radiologist who runs a radiology department. There are meant to be 15, but there are only five and they have not had a single person apply. It needs more radiologists and radiographers. We have a national shortage of dermatologists, which is one reason why skin cancers are not being picked up, and a national shortage of pathologists and histopathologists. We need a dramatic increase in the number of people working in the NHS. When are we going to see that workforce plan?

As I said, we have committed to publishing a comprehensive workforce strategy, which, as the Chancellor set out, will be independently verified. That will come soon. We have also set out new pension flexibilities. However, it is important to point out that we have 29,000 more nurses and we are on track to meet our 50,000 target. We have 3,700 more doctors compared with last year, 9,100 extra nurses and 2,300 more GPs.