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Medical Doctor Degree Apprentice Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why has a Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship been put in place? 

 An apprenticeship could make the profession more accessible, more diverse and more representative of local communities. At present there are barriers that hold back talented people. An apprenticeship could help to change that, while maintaining the exact same high standards of training. We want to spread opportunity out to local communities and help to address the challenge of recruiting and retaining doctors in areas where recruitment is proving difficult. 

  1. What are the entry requirements for doctor apprentices?  

These will be comparable to the traditional medical degree route. The entry requirements will be set by Medical Schools and employers. Medical Schools will have minimum entry requirements for their courses. The employer must be assured that the candidate is capable of the academic learning required and that they possess the values and behaviours to become a Medical Doctor. A comprehensive resource pack, developed in collaboration with employers, regulators, medical schools, medical unions and patient representatives, contains useful information to assist employers and medical schools who are interested in delivering the apprenticeship, including information on recruitment and selection of medical doctor degree apprentices. It is available here. 

  1. Does this apprenticeship include a medical degree?  

Yes, a medical degree is a central part of this apprenticeship, in fact a Medical Doctor Degree Apprentice will complete all the same training as a medical student following the established route. There is no element, academic or practical, of a traditional medical education that will not be completed by the apprentice. This includes a medical degree and the Medical Licensing Assessment and meeting all the same requirements set out by the General Medical Council. Apprenticeships enable people who are both new to the NHS and existing members of staff to gain a qualification and safely apply their learning while continuing to earn a salary. 

  1. Where will the apprenticeship vacancies be advertised and how can individuals apply?  

There is usually a delay between apprenticeship standards being developed and providers being ready to deliver the programme. This is because providers need time to apply to the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers and prepare the course content and resources. Employers also need time to prepare for the apprenticeship and recruit apprentices. Once available vacancies are usually advertised locally on NHS jobs or the government Find an Apprenticeship website. 

  1. Will Medical Doctor Degree Apprentices be paid?  

Apprentices are salaried employees during their apprenticeship. The decision on pay will be for their employer. There is a national minimum wage for apprentices, pay may be higher but cannot be lower than this. Once an apprentice has completed the first year of their apprenticeship, they are entitled to the minimum wage for their age. 

  1. How will the Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship be funded? 

 Funding for the first 200 medical doctor degree apprentices to begin training over the next two years has been confirmed. A Health Education England (now NHS England) employer support funding package has been agreed for a pilot programme to support healthcare employers to meet the costs of taking on apprentices. 

  1. Is any other funding available? 

Employers can utilise their apprenticeship levy up to a maximum of £27,000 over the course of the apprenticeship programme. Medical schools participating in the pilot will be eligible for Office for Students grants for teaching to support high-cost activities. This funding is confirmed for the pilot cohorts. Additional costs associated with the medical degree apprenticeship will be met by the organisation or system employing the Medical Doctor Degree Apprentice. Apprenticeships are not currently eligible for NHS England clinical placement tariff funding. Further details regarding the funding available for apprenticeships can be found on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-funding

  1. Where is the apprenticeship being piloted?  

NHS England is engaging with a small number of medical schools that have already registered an interest with the General Medical Council (GMC) in piloting the apprenticeship. There are a number of regulatory and procurement processes which must be met before pilot sites are confirmed.  

  1. What evidence is there that there is a market for a Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship scheme?  

We know that the majority of medical students come from a small section of society. We also know that for some who have the ability to train in the medical profession the costs associated with undertaking a medical degree means they do not consider it an option. The medical doctor degree apprenticeship would offer those people a route to a career as a doctor. 

  1. How would apprentice doctors actually help plug the medical workforce gap?  

The Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship will offer a new route into the profession, still offering a medical degree but taking away some of the financial burden associated with the traditional route for individuals in training. This would help attract talented candidates from across the country, who are currently locked out due to geographical or socio-economic reasons. 

  1. How will the Medical Doctor Degree Apprentice help to attract those from currently underrepresented groups to the medical profession? 

We know that a workforce that is representative of the community it serves can cater for its needs more effectively. The number of people from deprived socio-economic backgrounds undertaking medical degrees remains low compared to all entrants to higher education. One of the reasons they do not traditionally choose these courses is the associated cost of study. The Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship provides an earn and learn opportunity, which helps to take away some of that burden. We know similar degree apprentice courses have attracted people from the social economic backgrounds we are trying to attract. 

  1. What is the long term plan for the medical doctor degree apprenticeship? 

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan sets out the commitment to build on the 200 apprentices that are set to begin their courses in 2024 by growing that number to more than 850 medical degree apprentices by 2028/29. The overall aim is to have 2,000 medical students entering training via the medical doctor degree apprenticeship route by 2031/32. 

  1. Will the medical apprentices start work in the NHS straight away? Or will the students have classroom teaching before they start work?  

The main difference between the Medical Doctor Apprenticeship and a traditional medical degree, is that apprentices will work in healthcare from the beginning of their degree while also studying the academic subjects of the medical degree.  

After completing a medical degree, all doctors, whether they took the traditional route or the new apprenticeship route, must then enter paid employment in postgraduate medical training, commonly known as a junior doctor.          

Apprentices will also receive identical training and supervision from the same General Medical Council approved universities that already teach traditional medical degrees. Students who qualify via the traditional medical school route do not receive a salary until after they have completed their degree. 

  1. What kind of work /responsibilities will they do/have in the NHS? 

Medical Doctor Degree Apprentices will work safely under supervision at an appropriate level that is suitable to their stage of training. Apprentices will not work as doctors until fully qualified and hold a license to practice.  

They will be subject to the same rigorous requirements as doctors who have trained through traditional routes and will achieve a medical degree the same as a full-time medical student.  

They will undertake the same exams and assessment, including the new national licensing assessment, which will be taken by all medical students regardless of route of entry into their degree. 

The 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, particularly in those areas where medical workforce supply is a challenge, allowing organisations to benefit from a new pool of diverse talent. 

  1. Will the work undertaken while they are studying be in hospitals or general practice or elsewhere? 

The apprentices will spend most of their time with their employer which could be a hospital or in general practice. In common with traditional medical students, apprentices will need to undertake a range of clinical placements whilst on the apprentice programme. 

This will involve supervised practice in different settings which could include: 

  • teaching hospitals 
  • private hospitals and clinics 
  • community health centres 
  • specialist areas 
  1. How will they split their time between studying/working? I.e., what proportion of their time will be studying/working?  

This would be for medical schools to decide depending on programme design and capacity.

The General Medical Council sets standards on the time which must be spent on a medical degree programme which will inform the split between time studying, on clinical placement and working.   

  1. How will the apprentices be supervised in the NHS? 

They will work safely under supervision at an appropriate level that is suitable to their stage of training, as do all medical students. 

  1. Who will employ them? 

NHS employers could include Trusts and GP practices or Integrated Care Systems among others. 

  1. Will they still have to pay university fees?

Like most degree apprenticeships, the apprenticeship levy can be used by the employer to fund tuition fees.

  1. How long will it take to become a qualified doctor via the medical apprenticeship route? Once the apprenticeship is complete, how will they be assessed? 

The apprenticeship will typically last five years and apprentices will have to complete all requirements set out by the GMC for entry onto the Medical Register, including a medical degree and the Medical Licensing Assessment. 

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. All medical students must successfully complete a year of Foundation Training before they become fully registered doctors.   

  1. Initially the plan was for the first medical apprentices to start in 2023 – why has this been put back a year to 2024? 

The current timeline considers the typical time taken between the development of apprenticeship standards and the readiness of providers to deliver the programme.  

Providers need sufficient time to apply to the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, prepare course content and resources, gain approval from the GMC and allow employers to prepare for the apprenticeship and recruit suitable candidates. 

Once available vacancies are usually advertised locally on NHS jobs or the government Find an Apprenticeship website. 

  1. Will they then join the normal pathway to become a hospital doctor/GP or another route? 

Yes. Medical doctor apprentices will achieve a medical degree just like a medical student and then follow postgraduate pathways available, i.e. foundation training for two years and specialty training.