In Brief

Hunt to promise 25% rise in student doctor places

Health secretary outlines plan to recruit 1,500 more homegrown medics in quest to make NHS 'self-sufficient'

Jeremy Hunt is to increase the number of medical school places by 25 per cent under plans to make NHS England "self-sufficient".

Addressing the Conservative Party conference today, the Health Secretary will announce an extra 1,500 training places a year aimed at student doctors from within the UK. The move will begin in 2018.

Currently, as many as one in four medical workers are trained outside the UK, but Hunt will warn the impact of Brexit and a global shortage of doctors could make it harder to recruit so many in the future.

Praising foreign-trained doctors for doing a "fantastic job", he will tell delegates the government wants "EU nationals who are already here to be able to stay post-Brexit", but will add: "Is it right to import doctors from poorer countries that need them while turning away bright home graduates desperate to study medicine?"

Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC: "We want to see the NHS able to recruit doctors from this country. We want to see more British doctors in the NHS."

As medical degrees take five years to complete, it will be 2024 before the impact of these extra places is felt, says the broadcaster.

The move represents a partial U-turn by Hunt, says The Guardian: "Until now he has repeatedly responded to evidence of under-staffing by pointing out that the NHS in England has more doctors now than when the coalition took office in 2010."

Hunt's news was welcomed by the British Medical Association (BMA), but the body's chairman, Dr Mark Porter, questioned whether it would achieve the desired effect of self-sufficiency.

"We desperately need more doctors, particularly with the government plans for further seven-day services, but it will take a decade for extra places at medical school to produce more doctors. This initiative will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas staff," he said.

The Health Secretary is also risking a fresh clash with the medical profession by vowing to punish newly trained doctors who leave the UK for countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, says The Independent.

Medics will be required to work for the NHS for at least four years after graduation or face a hefty fine.

A source told The Independent: "We are announcing a commitment to fund many more home-grown doctors. What we want is for them to guarantee us a period of service in the NHS in return.

"It's people who are trained at the taxpayer's expense and then very quickly move abroad – that's what we are trying to disincentivise.

"It costs £200,000 to train every doctor, so we think it's reasonable to expect that the NHS will benefit from that investment," added the source.

More doctors' strikes - is the medical profession at war?

2 September

Junior doctors are planning a series of monthly five-day strikes between now and the end of the year, arguing there is neither the staff nor the money to support a new contract guaranteeing extra weekend care in hospitals.

In a year that has already seen six strikes by the medics, yesterday's escalation of industrial action has divided health professionals.

"The medical profession are at war," says the Daily Telegraph after the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges announced it did not consider the planned strikes "proportionate".

Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the General Medical Council, said the strike was "a matter of great concern for everyone, especially patients".

But Dr Mark Porter, the chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), which took the vote to strike, said: "The council, as is the rest of the BMA, is absolutely behind the decision".

Several newspapers have been critical. "Not only would action be unethical but also illogical," says the Telegraph, while The Times warns: "Five days is a long time to be 45,000 staff short" and urges the BMA to reconsider its decision.

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, says the "the doctors' decision to barter lives for cash drags their profession into deep disgrace".

Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy, quoted in The Guardian, said her organisation was "gravely troubled" at the "catastrophic impact this will have on so many patients and their families".

Meanwhile, Nigel Edwards of the Nuffield Trust, an independent health charity, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the strikes would be significant for senior staff, who stepped in for junior doctors during the last walkout.

Questions have also been raised about the BMA vote – Porter, in an interview with Nick Robinson, refused to give details after failing to deny the result was as close as 16-14. Dr Hamed Khan was similarly uncommunicative during an appearance on Iain Dale's LBC radio show, prompting the host to label him "pathetic".

The Guardian says the strike decision was a 16-12 vote.

Junior doctors to stage first five-day national strike in history

1 September

Junior doctors in England will go on an unprecedented five-day strike later this month in protest over a new working contract, the British Medical Association (BMA) has announced. Staff will down tools from 8am to 5pm during 12-16 September.

The doctors' union says the new contract, which is being imposed by the government, "did not do enough to reward those who work the most weekends" and was "unfair on part-time workers".

Dr Ellen McCourt, the BMA junior doctors' committee chair said "time is running out" for negotiation, as the first group of medics are due to start the contract in the coming weeks.

"We have a simple ask of the government: stop the imposition. If it agrees to do this, junior doctors will call off industrial action," she said.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the strike as "devastating news" for patients and called for fresh talks "to resolve the ongoing dispute".

The strike will have an enormous impact on health services, with an estimated "30,000 operations and a quarter of a million out-patient appointments" needing to be cancelled, says the Daily Telegraph.

This month's strike could be the first of many five-day walkouts by junior doctors. "Confidential papers drawn up by the BMA have suggested there could be five days of strikes each month for the rest of the year," reports the BBC.

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