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Ministers are contemplating on making medical training rules more flexible post Brexit, allowing pharmacists and paramedics to retrain as doctors, The Times has reported.

Government plans to scrap the current EU rules that stipulate doctors to undergo a five or six-year medical degree, the report said.

Downing Street hopes retraining experienced staff would help in resolving the NHS workforce crisis, it added.

The report cites Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England chief, as suggesting pharmacists could be retrained quickly as doctors.


RPS President Sandra Gidley said, in a statement, that the move may present more challenges to the profession and healthcare sector.

“Up to 6,000 pharmacists will be needed to support Primary Care Networks, many of which are struggling to recruit into new roles quickly enough. Diverting staff from one profession into another could make this even more of a challenge,” she said.

“There must be a strategic approach to workforce planning to avoid adding further pressures on already hard-working frontline staff.”

Gidley suggested new approach to training early careers pharmacists to equip them to take up more new roles across the NHS, along with funding for continued professional development for all pharmacists.

She, however, added that the Society is open to discuss the changes with the government.

“We would welcome early discussions with the Government, NHS and education leaders to learn more about what changes are being considered.”


When approached by Pharmacy Business, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, council chair of the British Medical Association, said that there was a desperate shortage of doctors in the UK and it was “important that the Government works to find a solution to this.”

“What must not be compromised, however, at any cost, is patient safety – anyone who is providing care as a medical professional must have the right knowledge, skillset, and experience. Patients want to be seen by well-trained, highly skilled and compassionate doctors who can provide them with the best possible care, and reducing training time won’t achieve this.

“We believe that there is no substitute for the current five-year undergraduate or four-year graduate entry medical curriculum for those wanting to become doctors. This training time is hugely important in developing confident and highly capable clinicians given the complex and life-changing decisions they have to make, often in highly pressurised situations.

“We need an increased medical workforce that’s properly trained and fully supported for the NHS to get back on its feet. Without that, we will simply be cutting corners, papering over the cracks and ultimately jeopardising the quality and safety of patient care.

“While Brexit will have a significant impact on our health and care services, one thing we must ensure is that the quality of medical education, training and patient care is of the highest standard.”


Reacting to the report PSNC said: “Pharmacists are highly qualified healthcare professionals and it makes sense to make best use of them, and of the network of conveniently-located community pharmacies across the country, to support as many other parts of the NHS as possible.

“We have not seen worked up proposals on more flexible training for pharmacists and we would need to explore these carefully, working with the professional and regulatory bodies and considering the potential impact on pharmacies and pharmacy contractors.”


The Times quoted chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Carrie MacEwen,  as saying “Leaving the EU may provide different opportunities but there are no quick fixes to the workforce shortages the NHS is facing.”

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the think tank Nuffield Trust told the newspaper that whist the policy was “not a ridiculous proposal,” it was questionable “how many extra doctors it would provide.”

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