Medicine is arguably the most difficult degree to gain entry. With a record number of applicants, many talented individuals are missing the opportunity to gain a place in medical school. With the current staff shortage and demands of the healthcare system, it is evident something must be done to ease the pressure on the NHS.
If you’d like to find out how to choose the right university, make sure to take a look at our article on How To Apply Tactically To UK Medical School.
Enter the new medical apprenticeship degree. Approved and due to be introduced with the 2023/4 cohort, this offers a leap towards improving diversity within the medical workforce. Health Education England (HEE) have acknowledged that the majority of medical students come from a “small section of society”. They are aiming to “spread opportunity to local communities”, recruiting and training doctors where enlistment is proving difficult. They aim to plug the medical workforce gap by attracting talented candidates that are “locked out due to geographical or socio-economic reasons”.
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) have acknowledged that the introduction of this 60 month program may have come as a “big surprise” for many, and that this will play a large role in “changing the way we think about skills in this country”. This could mean big things for not just the medical field but a large rise in skilled employees in all sectors.
Main aims of the program
Despite universities efforts to promote widening participation through access schemes and offer adjustments, the reality is there are still not enough places for people from less advantaged backgrounds. The introduction of the apprenticeship program aims to combat the barriers faced by people of deprived socio-economic backgrounds. HEE anticipates that the apprenticeship will also be attractive to other experienced healthcare professionals, qualified to further develop their skills and retrain as a doctor. It may be possible for them to use their experience and knowledge to gain access into the course, but more information awaits on how exactly this will be done.
How will the program work?
Just like typical apprenticeship programs, the basic premise consists of undertaking paid work alongside studying. Some time will be spent in a hospital/healthcare setting and some in a medical school. Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible to apply for GMC registration, and then begin approved foundation training.
HEE and IfATE has stated academic entry requirements will be the same as the “traditional” route, with exact entry conditions will be agreed between the employer and medical school. Students will be assessed in a pass/fail system on par with traditional medical schools. An End-point assessment will be used, underpinned by the GMC standards and assessed by an external examiner/independent assessor.
Issues that may arise
With the program in its infancy, many questions will still be unanswered for now.
HEE have reassured that there is “no practical or academic element of a traditional medical education that will not be completed by an apprentice”. The same GMC standards will be upheld to prevent any discretion between a “traditional” and “apprentice” graduate, ensuring both students face equal future opportunities.
Although the same standards will be held, it is uncertain how employers may react to the difference in education style. Will they favour those on a traditional route, leading to further issues with diversity in the workforce? Could those qualifying as an apprentice be more attractive to employers, due to their more hands-on experience, making “traditional” applicants disadvantaged?
How will they ensure the right people get places? If the academic entry requirements are the same, will this grant talented individuals from deprived backgrounds an equal opportunity or will the “traditional” medical applicants still overwhelm the majority? Will there be some leeway in regards to course requirements, e.g. widening participation alterations within the scheme? If the program is meant to provide experienced healthcare workers an opportunity to progress their career, will they have the same application progress as school leavers and graduates, or an alternative application pathway?
What are people’s opinions and thoughts so far?
After speaking to current medical students the majority believe the program is a good idea, with the potential to diversify the medical workforce. Justifiably there are concerns regarding whether graduates via apprenticeship routes will have equal opportunities to those from traditional routes. As well as how the program will approach this. The results were split when asked if they would have chosen an apprenticeship over a traditional route, but as we see the program in action this may influence those who are somewhat sceptical.
Overall there is a large positive outlook, with many people excited to see a reduction in the barriers faced by many in the road to becoming a doctor.
Where are we now, and what can you expect moving forwards?
Funding has been secured with assessments and standards approved for delivery. The apprenticeship standard will be released once “in principle” commitment for end point assessments are established. Approved bodies are currently deciding how they will deliver the program in practice. The earliest cohort is expected in September 2023, with the IAA scheduling a review for 3 years time, so we may just have to wait until then for our questions to be answered.
What does this mean for me?
If the program introduction runs to schedule you could expect to see classmates from the 2023/2024 apprenticeship scheme in your medical school! If you think you’d make a great fit and are considering applying from 2023, keep an eye out! For those in school, sixth form, or college, keep on track with your school grades for the meantime, as we can expect the same high standards as the traditional medicine route. Those currently working in healthcare will have to wait a bit longer for more application advice. Future applicants should check NHS jobs as well as individual employers’ job notification boards for apprenticeship vacancies, from Autumn 2023.
If you are currently applying to medical school, this makes a GREAT hot topic to explore at interview. Ensure you check HEE and IAA for regular updates. Read around the program using different resources such as BMJ, NHS England and BBC news.
If you want help getting into your dream university then also be sure to check out our Elite Coaching Programme. As part of this programme, you will get in-depth help with the entire application process from whatever stage you join at till you get into the medical school of your choice. This is done through 1-on-1 mentoring and the founder of the course, Dr Ashley Hilton is always available for any questions. You can find out more about the Elite Programme here.
Written by Katie Balme
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