The number of GP training places will be increased by 50% to 6,000, with the number of medical school training places to double to 15,000 by 2031, under the new NHS workforce plan.
The long-awaited plan will also see the number of adult nurse training places almost doubled by 2031, with 24,000 more nurse and midwife training places a year by the turn of the decade.
It is backed by more than £2.4 billion to fund ‘additional education and training places over five years on top of existing funding commitments’.
Vacancies in the NHS currently stand at 112,000. Estimates show that that gap could grow to 360,000 by 2037, given the UK’s growing and ageing population coupled with new therapies and treatments.
The long-term plan also aims to reduce reliance on agency spend, which NHS England said could cut the taxpayer bill by around £10 billion between 2030-31 and 2036-37.
NHS England also said that – alongside retention measures – it estimates this plan would mean the NHS had at least an extra 60,000 doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more allied health professionals in place in 15 years’ time.
This will be kickstarted with the boost to training numbers, NHS England said, with half a million trainees beginning clinical training by 2028.
Over the next five years, medical places will increase by more than a third for nurses and by a quarter for GP trainees.
And more training places will be offered through degree apprenticeships. Up to 16% of all training for clinical staff will be offered through apprenticeships by 2028, including more than 850 medical students.
NHS England said the growing number of nursing degrees will be accompanied by a 40% rise in nursing associate training places over five years.
It also touted a renewed focus on retention, with ‘better opportunities for career development, improved flexible working options’ and reforms to the pension scheme to ensure up to 130,000 staff stay working in NHS settings longer.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: ‘We will take practical and sustained action to retain existing talent, we will recruit and train hundreds of thousands more people and continue to accelerate the adoption of the latest technology to give our amazing workforce the very best tools to provide high-quality care to millions of people across the country each day.
‘Crucially, this plan will also ensure there is an NHS career choice that works for everyone now and in the future, so if you are interested in working for the NHS, or have loved ones who might be, please do find out more – it is a decision I have never regretted.’
And Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘There is much to welcome, not least the planned doubling of medical school places, the ambitions around apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships and the commitment to recruit more staff into mental health, community care and primary care roles.
‘The focus on boosting retention is also vital as, if anything, it’s more important than the supply side of the workforce equation. We see this plan as the crucial first leg in a three-legged stool that the NHS needs to revive and thrive – the other two being an equivalent plan for the social care workforce, alongside extra investment in capital and technology. Both will be required to achieve the plan’s laudable ambitions, particularly when it comes to the level of productivity increases that are envisaged.’