BGS responds to RCP’s report ‘Double or quits: a blueprint for expanding medical school places’

27 January 2021

On Tuesday 5 January, the Royal College of Physicians published a report ‘Double or quits: a blueprint for expanding medical school places’. This follows the RCP’s call for the number of medical school places to be doubled in 2018. The report looks at how to implement such an expansion including a blueprint for growth covering the model of provision, the costs, challenges and opportunities.

The BGS agrees that the challenges facing the NHS workforce are significant and we therefore warmly welcome the RCP’s plan for the next 10 years to address these issues. The call to double the number of medical school places from 7,500 to 15,000 per year, at an annual expense of around £1.85bn, while costly, is necessary if we are to meet the needs and realities of our health and care system.

The specialty of geriatrics continues to face workforce shortages, especially in regions of the country with lower population densities. We hope this proposed expansion in the number of trainees will help meet the system-wide challenges highlighted in the report, many of which relate to the UK’s ageing population. We also strongly support the call for medical schools to review their curricula to ensure they create cohorts of doctors with a broad base of skills, especially those relating to the care of older people.

Dr Claire Copeland, BGS Vice President for Workforce, commented:

Projections show that in 50 years’ time there are likely to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over in the UK, a population roughly the size of London. Longer lifespans are to be celebrated, but an ageing population means that more people will be experiencing ill health and will need specialists trained to manage multiple conditions, disability and frailty. While the recruitment and fill rate into geriatric medicine training programmes remains high, there is still more to be done to attract people into the specialty and ensure that they are encouraged to stay. As a specialty, ‘geriatrics’ has demonstrated success in recruiting and retaining staff, benefiting from the foundation of good care of older people provided through ‘generalist’ training. We also have evidence that a rising number of people are working part-time or flexibly, making geriatrics an attractive speciality for a good work/life balance. The availability of such working patterns positively influences retention of staff and leads to better all-round care of older people.”

Professor Mike Vassallo, BGS Vice President for Education and Training, commented:

This document highlights the need to increase the number of medical students to meet future workforce demands. This is an ideal opportunity to highlight that it is not only about increasing trainee numbers, but also about training differently. The undergraduate curriculum must meet the demands of an ageing population, equipping future doctors from the beginning of their career to manage frailty, complexity and chronic illness. Geriatric medicine and Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment should be an important part of curricula for medical students across all universities. Future doctors also need to be trained alongside their multi-professional colleagues, to enable them to work across an increasingly integrated health and social care system."