Rishi Sunak to recruit 300,000 new doctors and nurses in biggest shake up in NHS history

30 June 2023, 00:40 | Updated: 30 June 2023, 09:13

Rishi Sunak is to launch the plans on Friday.
Rishi Sunak is to launch the plans on Friday. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

The government is set to recruit over 300,000 new doctors and nurses in the "largest single expansion in NHS history".

The Prime Minister will unveil the 15-year plan, alongside its £2.4bn investment, at Downing Street on Friday.

The strategy estimates the recruitment of a potential 60,000 extra doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 health professionals by 2036/37.

It also promises to create a “renewed focus on retention” in the health workforce, while also preparing for future challenges created by a growing and ageing population.

It comes after warnings from health leaders in recent years that there could be 360,000 vacancy gaps in the NHS by 2037 amid growing concerns about staff shortages in the health service.

Doctors’ regulators are also being consulted under the plans about the possibility of cutting medical degrees down from five years to four, as previously the UK was governed by EU directives which outlined medical degrees must be a minimum of five years.

Wes Streeting comments on Government's new NHS plan

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Friday, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: "We have spent the best part of the last year urging the government to adopt Labour’s plan for the biggest expansion in the NHS workforce in history doubling the number of medical school places, nursing and midwifery clinical training places and a wide range of other roles."

He added: "Based on what we know it looks like the government are adopting our plan. I'm not going to be churlish and say I can't believe they’ve done this thing I've been asking for the last year.

"If the Conservatives are giving the next Labour government a head start then I'm going to support it."

NHS staffer pleased with government's new plan

The government hopes to increase the number of medical apprenticeships available, as the number of clinical roles taken up by apprentices is projected to rise from 7% to 16% under the proposal.

It will see the NHS crackdown on costly agency staff as health leaders have been instructed to cut the bill by £10bn by 2036/37 - reducing the number of overseas workers.

So far the plan has been accepted by ministers and backed by a £2.4bn investment.

Read more: ‘Unchartered territory for NHS’: July set for seven days of strikes from senior and junior doctors in NHS chaos

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Rishi Sunak described the plans as "the largest single expansion in NHS" history.
Rishi Sunak described the plans as "the largest single expansion in NHS" history. Picture: Alamy

The government says the plan will be revisited every two years to ensure it caters to developing needs across the health service.

Also included in the plan:

  • An increase in the number of GP training places by 50% to 6,000 by 2031
  • Nearly double the number of adult nurse training places by 2031
  • More apprenticeships os students can “earn while they learn”
  • A 40% rise in nurse associate training places over the next five years
  • Double the amount of medical school training places to 15,000 by 2031

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "On the 75th anniversary of our health service, this Government is making the largest single expansion in NHS education and training in its history.

"This is a plan for investment and a plan for reform.

"In the coming years we will train twice the number of doctors and an extra 24,000 more nurses a year, helping to cut waiting lists and improve patient care.

"We will do more to retain our brilliant NHS staff and reform the way the health system works to ensure it is fit for the future.”

The strategy launch comes as waiting lists in the NHS sit at a record high, with an estimated one in eight people on wait lists, and more than 650,000 cancellations within the health service due to industrial action.

Recent figures show there are some 112,000 vacant jobs in the NHS, while approximately 1.6 million are currently employed.

A report on Thursday also found that staff sickness reached a record high in the health service last year, as the NHS lost almost 75,000 staff members to illness.

It comes ahead of the NHS' 75th anniversary.
It comes ahead of the NHS' 75th anniversary. Picture: Alamy

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said of the new plans: "The publication of our first-ever NHS long-term workforce plan now gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put staffing on sustainable footing for the years to come.”

"As we look to adapt to new and rising demand for health services globally, this long-term blueprint is the first step in a major and much-needed expansion of our workforce to ensure we have the staff we need to deliver for patients,” she added.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay added: "The NHS is the biggest employer in the country and holds the affection of the British people because of the staff who work around the clock to care for us.

"The NHS long-term workforce plan, backed by significant Government investment, shows our determination to support and grow the workforce."

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