UK to open five new medical schools
More doctors needed in the UK to keep up with needs of an ageing population. Source: Shutterstock

The UK is planning to open five new medical schools over the next three years in a bid to supply under-doctored areas, increase training places and keep up with the needs of an ageing population.

According to the BBCthe five schools – Sunderland, Lancashire, Lincoln, Canterbury and Chelmsford – together with an expansion in existing medical schools, are to help the government’s commitment to increase student places by 25 percent.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the new schools were being targeted at parts of the country where it “can be hard to recruit and attract new doctors”.

“It will help us deal with the challenges of having around one million more over 75s in ten years’ time,” he added.

By 2020, there will be more than 15,00 students per year. The first batch of around 630 students will start this September, and the rest will be phased in the following two years.

UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Source: Reuters/Simon Dawson

The expansion is welcomed by the British Medical Association, but they noted that it will be another  five or six years before the extra doctors were working in the NHS.

Like many of its rich-world peers, the UK is facing the problem of an ageing population. A report by the Resolution Foundation thinktank found that by 2040, close to one in seven Britons will be aged 75 and above. Almost a third of people born in today can expect to live to 100.

Prof Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS in England said the NHS’s current model of care will not be able to meet the growing demand for treatment by this particular demographic.

Speaking to The GuardianKeogh said: “If the NHS continues to function as it does now, it’s going to really struggle to cope because the model of delivery and service that we have at the moment is not fit for the future.”

Thousands of international students compete for a spot in UK universities’ competitive medical programmes. It’s a tough admission process – 3As at A Levels (including chemistry and biology) or equivalent are the standard requirement to apply for undergraduate medicine. Another general requirement would be a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 across all four categories – reading, writing, speaking and listening – with an overall 7.0 score.

While having more medical schools may mean more options and a higher likelihood of acceptance, international students should be wary of the coming changes to the clinical placement arrangements in the UK.

Once admitted, international students are required to pay the full cost of their tuition and living costs at medical schools. The UK government, however, used to subsidise their clinical placement costs at over £110,000 per student. It’s a subsidy that is said to take funds away from the training of the domestic medical workforce, according to a 2016 government consultation paper.

From 2018/19, in a bid to expand undergraduate medical education, new international students studying at English universities will be expected to pay the full cost of their clinical placements.

English universities will also no longer be restricted in how many international medical students that they can recruit.

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