19 June 2024

RCP responds to NHS England proposal for four-year undergraduate medical degrees in England

Hospital Corridor

RCP wrote to Professor Liz Hughes, NHSE’s medical director for undergraduate medical training and education, to express concern that was announced with no information on engagement with stakeholders, nor consultation with the RCP.  

The RCP believes that the pressures of trying to achieve the same number of hours of a five-year course in four years is counterproductive, with negative impacts on knowledge and skill acquisition and retention, and mental health and wellbeing. It will also inhibit the NHS’s ability to widen access if prospective medical school students, motivated by reduced debt, are put under additional pressure to achieve. 

When the proposal to shorten the training pathway was announced in the NHS England Long Term Workforce Plan (LTWP), the RCP said it and others would need to scrutinise carefully any proposals, to make sure that they upheld standards and were practical. 

The RCP recently called on NHS England to engage more effectively with clinicians on how it will implement the LTWP. 

In the letter, the College urged NHSE to release the detail of how medical students will fit five years into four – whether, for example, the course is to be accelerated by teaching over the summer, so that the same number of taught and notional learning hours are achieved as in a five-year course. It made clear that we cannot have a two-tier system: all doctors must meet the standards set out by national bodies including the GMC and the royal colleges with the same graduate outcomes for all students.