Health: 1,000 extra doctors needed every year

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The Independent Online
Britain should be training an extra 1,000 doctors a year to meet future demands for healthcare, a government committee has concluded. The findings provide official confirmation of the pressure expected on the NHS budget over the next two decades. Doctors are responsible for spending most of the NHS's resources, so a rise in their numbers would mean a sharp leap in NHS costs.

The increase, up by a fifth on the 4,970 medical students planned for 2,000, will require the building of one or more medical schools or a big expansion of existing schools, the Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee says.

Alan Milburn, health minister, signalled the Government's anxiety by questioning the committee's conclusion. "A number of the [committee's] recommendations chime with the Government's own thinking and should be welcomed. But the recommendation on increased medical school intake has very significant implications."

Mr Milburn said in a newspaper article this week that the NHS was affordable from taxation and that doom mongers were exaggerating pressures on it. But a groundswell of opinion is growing that extra sources of funds, possibly by charging patients, will have to be found.

The committee estimates the demand for doctors will rise at 1.7 per cent per year over the next 20 years, similar. "An increase of 1,000 in the annual medical-student intake would not produce a domestic oversupply by the year 2020 under any realistic scenario. Training too few doctors, however, might well have implications for both healthcare and resources," it says.