Health officials have drawn up proposals according to which prospective doctors might qualify without a medical degree. The proposals aim to support individuals already working in healthcare with training while they work. Proposals could see nurses and assistants becoming doctors while working, which might increase accessibility and diversity in the workplace.
The General Medical Council regulator is developing the programme in partnership with medical schools and health bosses to create more accessible opportunities and access to medicine. Becoming doctors can be a laborious and expensive journey for students, who have to spend five or six years at medical school, including three years of clinical placements. As a result, this restricts entry to the profession to individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds. For this reason, the new programme might help boost inclusivity in the field, providing people who have different characteristics with opportunities and higher accessibility.
Despite the new initiative consisting of an apprenticeship programme, prospective doctors would cover the same curriculum as degrees, with the only difference being that people will be working alongside learning. Therefore, it would be very similar to traditional apprenticeships where people who might feel underrepresented, such as older workers, parents, or individuals with commitments of any sort, have the opportunity to learn differently and at a more accessible pace.
Under the current proposals, the programme is suitable for people who have already been at work for some time, whether in a health-related service or other work. The General Medical Council would put on the medical register individuals who complete medical doctor apprentices. However, the scheme might prove disputable.
Students from the British Medical Association expressed their views on the proposals and stated that medical training is an apprenticeship as much as it can be already, due to the two or three years of preclinical studies followed by three years of clinical studies where students are on placement all the time.
Therefore, the new initiative might unintentionally create a two-tier system that could void all the efforts made to widen participation and promote diversity in the workplace. Although this might pose a risk to the programme itself, a British Medical Association spokesman expressed that the proposals for a medical doctor apprenticeship that results in doctors educated and trained to the same high standards as current studentships are worthy of consideration.