UK must train more doctors and nurses, says NHS boss

NHS chief Amanda Pritchard  (PA Archive)
NHS chief Amanda Pritchard (PA Archive)

The head of the NHS has demanded more places for home-grown doctors and nurses at medical schools and warned hospitals are “over reliant” on foreign staff.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said “excellent” British candidates are being rejected from medical schools due to a lack of places.

The chief executive told The Times the NHS should stop spending £3billion a year on agency staff who should be “the exception”, not the rule.

The 7,500 medical school places on offer in the UK each year are oversubscribed, with “excellent” candidates being turned away, Ms Pritchard said.

The NHS will be “very ambitious” in increasing the number of homegrown recruits, she said.

“There’s no lack of demand,” she said. “We are seeing universities having to turn away excellent people, not just for medical degrees but nursing, therapy - across the board.

“Obviously you’re also looking at the ability of universities to ramp up the training places and of the NHS to make sure we’ve got the right clinical places, but over the next few years we would want to be in a position where we were increasingly able to be self-reliant on a workforce that would meet demand.”

Health trusts last year spent up to £2,500 for a single agency nurse shift and £5,200 for a doctor’s shift.

NHS England has more than 133,000 vacancies according to recent figures, but the 7,500 medical school places on offer in the UK each year remain hugely oversubscribed.

Meanwhile, Steve Barclay has been told to find cash from his existing budget if he wants to raise his pay offer to NHS staff, it has been claimed.

The Health Secretary is reported to have privately acknowledged that more than one million frontline staff deserve more money.

But the Treasury is said to have made it clear that any improved pay offer would have to come from the department’s existing budget. It raises the prospect of cuts to key services. Treasury officials are said to be waiting for Mr Barclay to identify £2billion to £3billionworth of services that would need to be scale back to free up enough money to table an improved offer.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has ruled out raiding the Treasury’s reserves to fund a one-off payment for 2022-23 for NHS staff.

A new offer is unlikely to be tabled before the next 48-hour walkout by nurses on Wednesday and Thursday, which will again force hospitals to cut back services, and unions warn strikes could continue for weeks.