The NHS recruitment and training body, Health Education England (HEE), confirmed funding for a new Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship in January.
The apprenticeships are also part of the NHS England Long Term Workforce Plan, which will see the biggest expansion of training in its history to help upskill, retain talent and create a healthcare workforce fit for the future.
Apprentices will earn a wage while training to nationally recognised standards, and like most degree apprenticeships, they won’t have to pay any tuition fees. The first applications are likely to open for the pilot scheme in September 2024.
Of course, trainees will need to meet the same high standards as those who do a traditional medical school route.
They will be required to attend medical school, complete an accredited medical degree like all other trainee doctors, and meet all other criteria to qualify as a doctor as set out by the General Medical Council.
This marks an important step in making careers in medicine more accessible, helping to recruit frontline medics into the NHS.
Providing an alternative route into medicine will help more people of different backgrounds get into the profession, making the NHS workforce more representative of the local communities it serves.
Does this mean school leavers will be able to work as doctors without going to university?
The main difference between the Medical Doctor Apprenticeship and a traditional medical degree is that apprentices will work as a trainee medical practitioner while studying towards their medical degree. Students who qualify via the traditional medical school route do not receive a salary until after they have completed their degree.
However, this doesn’t mean apprentices will be treated as qualified doctors from the beginning. They will work safely under supervision at an appropriate level that is suitable to their stage of training.
Apprentices will also receive training from some of the same universities that already teach medical degrees.
Will doctors who study an apprenticeship be less qualified than someone who went to university?
People who apply for the Medical Doctor Apprenticeship will be expected to have similar academic qualifications to those who apply for medical school.
There will also be options for graduates with non-medical degrees. Individual employers will set applicant criteria themselves, which will ensure that applicants possess the values and behaviours to become a medical doctor.
The apprenticeship will last five years and apprentices will have to complete all academic elements of medical training, including a medical degree and the Medical Licensing Assessment.
They will also have to meet all requirements set out by the General Medical Council for entry onto the Medical Register.
This means that by the end of their training, apprentices will achieve the same high-quality qualifications as someone who has got their medical degree through a traditional route.
Will apprenticeships lower standards of the NHS?
Medical Doctor Apprentices will be subject to the same rigorous requirements as doctors with traditional training, and will achieve a medical degree just like a medical student.
The gold-standard apprenticeship will help to build a highly skilled NHS workforce, following on from the nursing and healthcare apprenticeships which already exist.
The apprenticeship will also boost the NHS workforce and help it to meet the growing demand for highly trained professionals, allowing it to benefit from a new pool of diverse talent.
How can I apply for a doctor apprenticeship?
Start dates are yet to be confirmed as providers are still currently exploring how to best provide the apprenticeships.
However, candidates will likely be able to apply to the pilot scheme from September 2024, to allow providers time to prepare to deliver the course.
Those who are interested in applying should periodically check NHS Jobs or the government’s Find an Apprenticeship website for any apprenticeship vacancies. Apprenticeships are unlikely to be advertised before 2024.