Congress backs HCSA campaign on medical student places

The 2023 Trades Union Congress in Liverpool has voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion by HCSA - the hospital doctors' union to hold the government to account on its commitment to double medical student places.

HCSA National Officer Martin Bond told Congress that the first-ever NHS workforce plan commits to doubling medical school places by 2031. This is welcome, but HCSA has warned that new medical students need training places and senior doctors to train them.
Congress noted that the UK sits below OECD averages, with only 3.2 doctors per 1,000 patients.

Martin Bond told Congress:

'We welcome the publication of the NHS workforce plan in June of this year. It’s worth noting this is the first ever plan of its kind. Congress, that the National Health Service has been going for 75 years without a workforce plan may go some way to explaining the mess we are in. Unfilled vacancies, inadequate systems for measuring staffing gaps and very little future planning.'

Congress noted that measures cited to boost the medical workforce include shortened medical degrees, medical internships and the apprenticeship model, and, while such initiatives have laudable intentions, they need serious thought and planning. 'We deserve more than manifesto pledges and gimmicks,' Martin Bond said.

HCSA outlined three key issues decision makers must address.

Firstly, increased medical students must go hand in hand with increased training places. 'Every year, final year medical students face a last minute scramble to apply for highly sought after junior doctor jobs. This causes a great deal of stress and anxiety, as some students inevitably find themselves without places in their preferred line of work,' said Martin Bond.

Secondly, detail is required on the specialisms into which new medical students are intended to graduate.

Thirdly, with the workplace plan projecting consultant shortfalls of up to 8%, there must be action to retain senior doctors. 'Recruitment without retention is a pointless exercise. New doctors will need mentors, trainers and leaders to support their careers,' said Martin Bond.

The TUC's General Council will now voice concern over the impact on training standards and patient safety of new initiatives such as medical internships and apprenticeships; lobby for rigorous workforce planning to be undertaken to provide training places for the new cohort of medical students; and lobby for retention of senior doctors to train these new students.

Medical students at any stage in their studies can join HCSA as an Associate Member for free.