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More flexible routes to studying medicine and becoming a doctor: the RCP principles

The RCP has set out principles against which it will assess any proposals to create more flexible routes to studying medicine and becoming a doctor. 

In February 2020, the government announced that it intended to create shorter, more flexible routes for healthcare professionals to become doctors and nurses after the UK left the EU. This was followed in March of this year by Health Education England beginning work with Skills for Health to develop an apprenticeship standard for doctors
The proposed duration of this apprenticeship is five years and will include the Medical Licensing Assessment. Apprentices would then be eligible to apply to the GMC and a foundation training place. 

The RCP will closely analyse further detail and will assess the final proposal, as well as any separate proposals to create more flexible routes to studying medicine, against the following principles: 

  • The RCP recognises the advantages of more flexible conversion routes to study medicine that lead to candidates meeting GMC requirements, including for existing healthcare professionals. These routes could help tackle workforce shortages and improve the socioeconomic diversity of medicine. 

  • For those routes aimed at existing healthcare professionals, care will need to be taken to ensure they are not exacerbating workforce shortages in other parts of the health and care workforce. The design of new training routes will also need to take into account available teaching and supervisor capacity. 

  • With regard to models that combine work and study, we believe these warrant further exploration but would have concerns if this meant a shorter period of study. This would risk under-preparing students for an increasingly complex career caring for patients with multiple health conditions. 

  • Conventional ways of increasing training numbers, especially through the doubling of medical schools places, are the most effective and best value long term solution to tackle our workforce shortages. Innovative thinking should be part of addressing this challenge though; for example, the RCP has recommended moving towards an apprenticeship-style final year of medical school. Creating more flexible conversion routes, including for existing healthcare professionals, would be a supplementary way of increasing workforce capacity, alongside the need to do more to retain the existing workforce.  

We will respond to any developments in line with these principles and will keep RCP members informed. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact us via policy@rcp.ac.uk