What will the programme achieve and why does the current training posts system need to change?
The Covid-19 pandemic has starkly shown the extent of health inequalities across England, as well as within regions. It has emphasised the need for us to examine the current NHS delivery system and to assess whether public funding can be better spent, based on evidence about effectiveness and value for money.
The funding of postgraduate medical training posts offers a great opportunity to better align patient need and training capacity for the future. Certain regions, such as London, have, historically, had a higher share of this finite postgraduate doctors in training workforce than will likely be the case going forwards.
Many other locations across England, particularly remote, rural and coastal areas, need a fairer distribution of the training places to meet local population needs and support to meet substantial challenges in terms of recruitment and retention of staff.
London has historically been fortunate to attract large postgraduate doctors in training numbers, thereby filling all available training posts. The region has played a leading role in supporting other areas across England with their capacity building, as doctors trained in the capital often move to other regions as they complete training, and London is now addressing how best to retain its postgraduate doctors in training consultant workforce in the capital.
The programme will:
- support patients and the wider NHS by ensuring that we have the appropriate number of doctors in the places where they are needed
- ensure that training places continue to be of an exceptionally high quality and deliver the curriculum so that our doctors have the education and training to provide exemplary patient care
- offer a more equitable distribution of training places across England, corresponding to areas of greatest need / health inequities.
What does this mean for London postgraduate doctors in training?
London will be supporting this programme by offering a number of specialty training posts to other regions to ensure there is a more equitable distribution of future training places across England, levelling-up historical, regional health inequities. However, while we anticipate fewer secondary care posts being available in the future, there are now additional training posts in the UK Foundation Programme as well as in primary care.
Through an additional 1,500 annual undergraduate medical school places now available in England, we will see an anticipated increase in the number of postgraduate doctors in training progressing into specialty training as early as 2026, following the completion of the UK Foundation Programme. Working with hospital trusts, the first phase of the Foundation Programme expansion, which commenced in August 2023, is already underway.
How will these changes impact current postgraduate doctors in training?
No postgraduate doctors in training currently in post will be moved from their current location. However, NHS England will look at moving future tariff-funded training posts to meet the evidenced regional need. This programme applies only to posts that are tariff-funded and does not include academic or trust-funded posts.
Over time, the number of posts in some specialties and geographies will change as we realign our resources to better meet patient need, rebalancing to a fairer distribution for areas that previously had a poorer share of this public funding.
NHS England will annually review the numbers, as and when new investment in training posts is made available, and ensure this information feeds into ongoing decision-making processes and the pace of proposed changes.
Our ongoing commitment to London postgraduate doctors in training
We appreciate that the experience of postgraduate doctors in training will be a little different, as a result of these changes. We will protect the opportunities our postgraduate doctors in training enjoy across each specialty so that they continue to benefit from exposure to a wide variety and pace of opportunity, unmatched across the rest of country. London provides a full curriculum of training across all specialties, some of which are only available in the capital, and will continue to do so.
We will work to ensure that training places continue to be of an exceptionally high quality so that our doctors have the education and training they need to provide the highest quality patient care. Capacity-building and exemplary training experience will remain at the forefront of system design to ensure postgraduate doctors in training experience the very best learning and training environments across London.
Pace of change
The programme began implementing England-wide changes from August 2022. In London, the proposed movement of / reduction in the numbers of specialty training posts commenced from August 2022. The programme has been split into 3 phases (A, B and C). We are currently in phase A, with phase B expected to start in 2026 and phase C expected to start in 2029.
We will work with trusts and clinical networks to monitor the impact of these changes on service delivery. Ongoing monitoring will inform all future decision-making with annual reviews taking place. Any course corrections will be shared with affected stakeholders as soon as possible.
At a national level, NHS England will use the learning gained from implementing earlier phases (including the specialty areas of Cardiology, Haematology and Obstetrics and Gynaecology) to apply to future programme rollout which will expand to further specialties. At a regional level, NHS England will be monitoring the impact of the programme through a number of metrics including Inter-Deanery Transfer (IDT) requests, Out of Programme (OOP) requests and trainee satisfaction.
Patient safety driving improvement
Patient safety remains a key driver behind this work programme and will inform all future decision-making. This overdue spotlight on current systems gives us a valuable opportunity to improve patient outcomes by creating better alignment around training, service, and patient needs in the future.
Over the last 30 years, the NHS has developed sophisticated modelling techniques to guide the allocation of resources against current need. The current model takes into account over 150 separate factors to determine population weighted healthcare need. This is combined with NHS England's demand forecasting model that utilises Hospital Episode Statistics, alongside Office for National Statistics population projections, to understand growth in demand for key hospital services in the future, and gives weighting based on regional deprivation.
This provides a robust method for understanding the distribution of future healthcare demand on the medical workforce. The model provides a reliable and transparent methodology on which to base the distribution of trainee posts across regions which can be revisited if changes occur.
Regions receiving posts will only be able to accept these placements if they can meet training quality standards. Posts will be allocated based on when regions are ready to accommodate them, prioritising the areas due to inherit the most posts. It will be reviewed annually to incorporate additional factors as required.
Developing multi-disciplinary workforce models across London
Following the examples of other regions, NHS England is looking at how to develop better multi-disciplinary workforce models for London, where appropriate, to realign training capacity to meet patient need as closely as possible, and across all specialties in due course. NHS England will be led by service leaders to develop future workforce models.
NHS England is reviewing current ways of working, to build skills and capacity differently across the workforce and to rethink how services are aligned to enhance London training programmes. Even with a reduction in posts, London has much to offer postgraduate doctors in training through unparalleled specialty training and learning environments, innovative research projects and exposure to industry experts.
Postgraduate doctors in training can expect an excellent standard of training and hospital experience. Logistically, specialty rotations are sited much closer together in London, making everyday commitments for postgraduate doctors in training easier. All of this enables London to attract the best healthcare professionals in order to train and build the best workforce possible and improve doctor retention, securing excellent patient outcomes.
Get in touch
We appreciate this programme will be implementing significant system changes and that you may have questions and concerns about what will be happening in the London region. We are developing a range of ways for you to get in touch and involved, so that we can best support you through this ongoing process.