Leeds Sixth Form college chosen to offer course which fastracks people to become GPs amid nationwide doctor crisis

A college in Leeds is set to be one of few across the whole country to start a new course this summer which aims to tackle the nationwide problem of a shortage of doctors.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 4:45 am

Access to Medicine is a fast track, specialist, one year programme that will be taught by Leeds Sixth Form College from September, 2021.

The college is one of just a handful of further education institutions that will be running the course, which is aimed at adult learners who want to progress to university to pursue a medical career but lack the required A levels.

Students of Access to Medicine will be taught in Leeds Sixth Form College’s dedicated laboratory and gain the equivalent of A levels in Chemistry, Biology and Maths - an HE Diploma Level 3 - in just one year.

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Science facilities at Leeds Sixth Form College, which is preparing to launch an Access to Medicine course.

It comes as The British Medical Association (BMA) said a rapid expansion of the GP workforce across England is needed, as the number of patients per practice hit a new national record.

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The body warned: "The medical workforce in England is currently short of around 49,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) doctors. Without significant intervention to the current rate of growth, we estimate the future medical workforce shortage to be between 26,889 and 83,779 FTE doctors by 2043.”

The doctors shortage is also a problem at regional level, with a report by the Medical Defence Society in December, 2019 noting that Yorkshire and Humber (NHS Leeds) was one of the five worst affected areas in the country.

Dr Richard Vautrey.

In Leeds, NHS Digital figures show 898,660 patients were registered at the 93 GP practices in the NHS Leeds CCG area, as of the end of June, which meant each GP team was dealing with an average of 9,663 patients each – up slightly from 9,609 in June 2020.

Dr Richard Vautrey who is a Leeds GP and chair of the BMA's GP committee said in an interview earlier this week with the Yorkshire Evening Post that the situation "has been troubling for more than a decade."

He said: "Numbers of GPs are falling while demand rises, leaving us with a severe shortage. With a growing and ageing population, only a medical workforce expansion will give us hope that we can offer good quality care to everyone in the future.”

Courses like the one that will now be offered at Leeds Sixth Form are being used as part of a wider strategy to tackle the problem.

Principal of Leeds Sixth Form College, Rachael Booth, said: “Leeds Sixth Form College is proud to be helping spearhead this significant new course. Access to Medicine courses are designed to do exactly what they say ‘on the tin’ - provide a fast- track route, for adult learners, into the field of medicine.

“This course is particularly important at the current time, when the country is suffering from serious doctor shortages and the healthcare workforce as a whole has been faced with enormous challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are proud to be able to help address those problems by offering Access to Medicine from here at Leeds Sixth Form College, where our specialist staff and facilities are perfectly placed to deliver it.”

The course, for those aged 19 and over, has already been trialled at a few colleges and Leeds Sixth Form College is in discussions with a number of universities about potential tie-ins with their medical schools.

Course Leader at Leeds Sixth Form College, Alex Wilkinson, is certain Access to Medicine will prove popular.

She said: “We get a lot of students from many different backgrounds at the college who tell us they want to do medicine, so we know there is a lot of interest in this – we have a captive audience in a sense.

“And we’ve got the specialists to deliver this, and lots of teachers who have experience in supporting students with A levels. This course will get the students onto the first rung of a medical career.”