People who are already working as healthcare professionals could train to become doctors and nurses more quickly now that the UK has left the EU.
The government will consider how to better recognise the skills and experience of existing healthcare professionals who want to train in a different area of healthcare.
A spokesman for Public Health England (PHE) said newly designed courses could take into account existing qualifications, training and experience, making it easier and quicker for existing healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists or pharmacists to train as doctors.
The current training standards are set by the EU. They mean that healthcare professionals wishing to move into another area have to complete a set training course, regardless of any existing health background or qualifications. This includes 5,500 hours of training and a minimum of five years to become a doctor.
Under the potential new system, a physiotherapist who has been in the job for 10 years could complete training based on their experience and qualifications, rather than fixed time-frames.
It could also allow people from a wider range of backgrounds to train, by offering training that can fit around caring or parenting responsibilities.
However, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health president, professor Russell Viner, said using other professionals to plug holes in doctor availability risks creating holes elsewhere in the healthcare system.
‘The child health workforce is currently short of nearly 900 consultants alone, with a similar lack of paediatric doctors at other grades, as well as allied health professionals, pharmacists, health visitors and school nurses. This means that services for treating children are constantly placed under enormous pressure.
‘While welcome as a recognition that NHS staff need flexibility to retrain and use their skills and experience in new roles, it is hard to see how the government’s proposals will be enough to do more than scratch the surface of a problem that is having a severe effect not only on staff morale and retention but also on the ability to deliver safe and high-quality care for children and young people.
‘This is a zero-sum game and taking other professionals to plug holes in doctor availability risks creating holes elsewhere.’
A spokesman for PHE said any new education and training courses will be rigorously tested to make sure the UK’s high medical standards continue to be met.
The General Medical Council’s Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) will help to ensure this. The MLA is a standard that all doctors who wish to practise in the UK will need to meet from 2023.
Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock said: ”Without being bound by EU regulations, we can focus on ensuring our workforce has the necessary training which is best suited to them and their experience, without ever compromising on our high standards of care or on patient safety.
‘The plans we are setting out today mean that we can retrain healthcare workers and get them back to the frontline faster. This is good for patients, and good for our NHS.
‘Healthcare professionals across the NHS work tirelessly, day in, day out, to improve the lives of those around them and I welcome this chance to review any unnecessary barriers that can delay them from reaching their full potential in our NHS.’
Susan Masters, director of Nursing, Policy and Practice for the Royal College of Nursing, said the key to filling more positions is to bring in more staff overall.
‘Standards of education must remain high and we will look closely at how proposals on flexibility can achieve this.
‘When every profession in health care is facing shortages, the key to filling jobs and keeping patients safe is to attract more people overall as well as allow existing professionals to move around.
‘The forthcoming budget is an opportunity to put money into a full package of support for England’s nursing students.’
Photo Credit – Pixabay