Labour pledges major expansion of NHS training in universities

Shadow chancellor promises to reinstate top rate of income tax to fund ‘biggest expansion of medical school places ever’

September 26, 2022

Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has pledged to reinstate the top rate of income tax scrapped by Liz Truss’ government to fund the “biggest expansion of medical school places in British history” and boost nursing student numbers.

Ms Reeves’ announcement at the party’s conference in Liverpool would amount to a big injection of extra funding into universities.

She said that the money raised by reinstating the 45p rate of tax on those earning more than £150,000 would be used to “double the number of district nurses qualifying every year, train more than 5,000 new health visitors and create an additional 10,000 nursing and midwife placements every year”.

She added that a Labour government would also “implement the biggest expansion of medical school places in British history, doubling the number of medical students so our NHS has the doctors it needs”.

Providing clinical placements in hospitals has long been a bottleneck restricting the number of nursing and medical school places universities can offer.

Vanessa Wilson, chief executive of the University Alliance, said: “As the group of universities which collectively train the largest number of nurses in the UK, we are delighted that the shadow chancellor has recognised the need to significantly grow the number of nurses we train. The issue of how to effectively train more nurses is a complex one, and we hope that the Labour party will involve universities in shaping this policy.”

She added: “The real challenge we face is in providing NHS placements for growing numbers of nursing and medical students. The only way to overcome this challenge is to focus on quality over quantity in the number of placement hours a student must undertake to qualify.

“The UK requires our nursing students to undertake more hours of placement than almost any other country in the world. Even a small reduction in the number of hours needed would free up places for a higher number of students. A focus on assessing competence, rather than hours completed, would ensure both that our nurses are equipped to deliver outstanding care to patients and that we have enough nurses to staff our NHS.”

Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, said Labour’s commitment to double the number of medical school places was “welcome given the need to boost the pipeline of doctors to the NHS”.

“It’s important any increase in places is fully funded and that implementation is worked through closely with universities and their health partners so the expansion of NHS placements available to students can be delivered,” Dr Bradshaw said.

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