Government refuses to fund UK students at new medical school despite ‘chronic’ doctor shortage

A new school set up to boost the number of doctors in England has been told it will not receive any funding for domestic students – meaning that in future it may only be able to give places to those coming in from overseas.

Anna Fazackerley

The government is refusing to fund a single place at Three Counties Medical School, University of Worcester, despite health bosses in the area saying they are spending £70m a year on agency staff to plug a chronic shortage of doctors.

The school was set up to boost doctor numbers across Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire – rural areas that struggle to compete with big city training centres such as Birmingham when recruiting medical staff. The centre is expected to be completed in about six weeks, and it has the agreement of the General Medical Council to start training doctors from September.

However, the Department for Health and Social Care, which maintains a strict cap on the number of university medical degree places it funds, is ignoring pleas from local health trusts, hospitals and Tory MPs to pay for students to come and train at the school.

Professor David Green, vice chancellor of Worcester University, told the Observer: “The chronic shortage of staff in the NHS means that doctors are constantly rushed, so delays and mistakes happen and that is leading to a crisis of excess deaths. The question is how bad do things have to get before the government will act?”

He said that there was “a desperate need” for more doctors to work in the three counties, adding: “All the local health services say the school is crucial. But we still have not been allocated a single funded place by the government.”

Simon Trickett, chief executive of the NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire integrated care board, said they were spending just over £70m this year on locum and agency staff because they don’t have enough doctors. He added: “That’s a massive premium to pay to get your shifts covered.”

He said: “It is really frustrating. The local system is 100% behind this medical school. The GP surgeries, the hospitals, the community services and the local councils all really want it. But it is being blocked from entering the market.”

Trickett said that as well as doctors working in hospitals the region urgently needed a “production pipeline” of new trainee GPs to fill the gaps as existing doctors retired, adding that this was particularly important as they had a high proportion of elderly residents.

It comes as the head of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, called on the government to increase the number of homegrown nurses and doctors trained at medical schools. “We are seeing universities having to turn away excellent people,” she told the Times.

In the absence of any government funding, the university has managed to raise the money for 20 UK medical students to start its fast-track four-year graduate medical training this September, with support from a local charity and a one-off contribution from local NHS trusts, which do not want to see the school fail. The school received 1,000 applications from students in the UK and across the world, with international students paying £45,100 a year to support all their own training costs.

The medical school has offered places to 48 students in total, but Green said that the university could “easily” have secured training placements locally for more than 100 students if the government would agree to pay for them.

Robin Walker, Conservative MP for Worcester and chair of the Commons education select committee, said: “I’ve been telling health ministers that it is irrational to have medical schools that can’t recruit domestic medical students when we know we need them.”

He added: “At the moment we are dependent on training centres like Birmingham and Bristol to recruit doctors but they have their own demands to meet. We urgently need a local supply of doctors.”

The Royal College of Physicians has been lobbying for an expansion in medical training places for years. Its president, Dr Sarah Clarke, said: “Training more doctors is crucial to creating a sustainable and efficient health service. There are thousands of UK students ready to take up places in medical school, we just need the government to fund them.”

Next year Worcester says it will have to recruit only international students, who are less likely to stay and work locally.

The government has also denied funding to two other new medical schools in England, at Brunel University and the University of Chester.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “Since 2017, the government has provided funding for an extra 1,500 medical school places per year. We created five new medical schools as part of this process.

“We have commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term plan for the NHS workforce for the next 15 years. This will look at the mix and number of staff required across all parts of the country, including doctors.”

‘Iron Hunt’ blocks NHS pay deals

Isn’t he part of the problem? – Owl

Jeremy Hunt has been “captured” by the Treasury, according to a Westminster insider.

Caroline Wheeler

The chancellor is seen as the stumbling block in talks with the unions over disputes that have brought Britain grinding to a halt.

The insider points to Hunt’s determination to boost growth by getting economically inactive people back into work while blocking pay rises for public sector workers.

It is understood that the Treasury has told Steve Barclay to find savings in his health department if he wants to give nurses a pay rise. He has resisted the idea after having to find £250 million to plough into social care to free up hospital beds and ease the A&E crisis.

Barclay believes nurses should be an exceptional case, but the Treasury has rebuffed his approach for more money. In talks with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) last week Barclay asked for this week’s strikes, on Wednesday and Thursday, to be called off while discussions continue. The union wants a 19 per cent pay rise.

Rishi Sunak had promised unions a fresh approach, and ministers were told to begin negotiations on pay deals for 2023-24. The RCN talks are still open but this week’s action — involving up to 100,000 nurses — is expected to go ahead after the government refused to talk about this year’s pay deal.

With no sign of a breakthrough, the RCN is set to announce further strike dates for the start of February.

In more bad news for the government, the National Education Union and the National Association of Head Teachers are expected to announce that their members have voted in favour of a strike.

One Westminster insider suggested the blockage was Hunt: “Last year he argued for more funding for the NHS in his book Zero. Now he has become the iron chancellor, saying no to everything.”

The prime minister is likely to come under more pressure to resolve pay disputes as May’s local elections loom. One former cabinet minister said a way to put more money into health could be to tap the Treasury’s £4 billion windfall from the Bank of England’s sale of the long-term gilts it bought to quell panic after Liz Truss’s mini-budget.

A settlement on the railways is said to be “within touching distance” as ministers scaled back their demand for driver-only trains. The deal on the table is a 9 per cent pay increase over two years.

The chance of a breakthrough brings a glimmer of hope after a gloomy start to the year, with public services on strike on a scale not seen since 1926. The disputes have added to the bleak economic landscape. The UK narrowly avoided a 2022 recession after a “surprise” 0.1 per cent rise in growth in November. The risk of recession still looms large, however, with the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility both forecasting a contraction in the first half of 2023.

Sunak and Hunt have told business leaders that tackling Britain’s shrinking workforce is a priority that will be at the heart of the budget in March. Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, has drawn up proposals to tempt Britain’s nine million economically inactive people back to work.

He aims to lure over-50s who have taken early retirement back into the office and has prioritised efforts to keep younger people in employment.

Stride is expected to meet Hunt this week to discuss his proposals, which are understood to include putting a duty on pension providers to offer “midlife financial MoTs”. It is believed many over-50s took early retirement using assumptions made before the cost of living crisis.

Stride is also looking at the childcare element of universal credit and is considering plans to increase the benefit.

“Mel wants there to be as radical a target as possible to help those with treatable conditions, including those with mental health and skeletal conditions, back into work,” a Whitehall source said.

Devon new-build town with ‘shady past’ is now ‘lush place to live’

‘Community’ is alive and well in fast emerging Cranbrook as locals share what it’s really like to live in the young town, according to this article.

However, the string of comments posted online still seems to paint a different picture:


  1. Crimebrook, where the council took the back handers from councils with problem tenants from areas such as Birmingham and Liverpool and voila you’ve just spent a fortune on a house that will just about survive a windy day to find roaming neighbours whose hands are in everyone’s pockets bar their own
  2. The houses there will no longer be fit for purpose in another 20 years, no real substance to them and shoddily built. People pay a small fortune for what they call a family home which is hardly big enough to swing a cat in.
    The only people who will make any money on these houses are the developers. Anyone else will be lucky if the house is still standing in a few years. Don’t even think about trying any DIY, it’s basically wood & paper keeping the place together.
  3. Heating homes a major problem
    You must use natter boiler which you have no control
  4. I love the place can buy all my gear there and no police
  5. Looks awful. Another Luton.
  6. Oh no social housing! So many snobs here.
  7. You sure! Someone told me the local council received payments to take problem families from other areas and there are plenty of problems there!
  8. We rented in Cranbrook when we sold our last house and whilst looking for new. Although there for 9 months none of the neighbours introduced themselves, smiled or wanted any conversation. As soon as we brought a house in the city we meet all our lovely polite neighbours within a week, . There certainly wasn’t any community spirit in the road I was in. Horrid place to live – luckily I never have to go back.
  9. Cranbrook was ruined by the requirement to have a social housing allocation in new build estates. Imagine paying your life savings for your dream home and then find out that they have shipped all of the “problem families” out there out of sight, out of mind
  10. The “journalist” appears to have only spoken to a couple people, all of which are working here. Of course they’re going to say they love it. You want to speak to the residents. Plenty aren’t happy at all.
  11. No mention of the bus shelters getting constantly smashed up. No mention of the rats that are still prevalent. No mention of the cars and vans parking on the dropped kerbs restricting people getting in and out of their parking spaces. No mention of grass verges getting driven on as short cuts and also because people are being forced to because of the crazy parking. No mention of pets being run over and killed because people can’t seem to stick to the speed limits. No mention of the constant road blocks with traffic being diverted through the centre because EON can’t seem to do their job properly. Talking of EON, no mention of the heating constantly breaking down because they can’t do their job properly. No mention of the post office that’s rarely open. There’s a lot more I could mention.
    Yes, it’s a wonderful place to live if you can ignore all this…
  12. Cranbrook is “convenient” with its close proximity to Exeter and excellent transport links, sadly the present facilities are poor – there are times when the staff at the pub cannot be bothered with serving its customers and overpriced food and staff in the co-op and post office are occasionally downright rude – pist office especially, that is when it is open! Speed of the traffic passing through is another problem!
  13. Soulless, dull, depressing. But great if you want to live in jerry built, characterless, identikit rabbit hutches.

Compulsive watching on TV, billed for February

Boris Johnson’s Partygate testimony to be shown in full on live TV

Can he navigate (bluster) his way out? Is your blood pressure up for this? – Owl

Michael Savage

Boris Johnson’s loyal band of supporters continue to believe he is the only politician with the box-office appeal to turn around the Tory party’s ailing fortunes. Before he has any chance of plotting a comeback, however, he will have to endure another box-office encounter that represents his biggest obstacle.

In what will be a high-stakes spectacle, major broadcasters are planning to air the entirety of the former prime minister’s testimony to parliament’s privileges committee, which is examining whether he misled MPs about law-breaking parties during the Covid pandemic.

So much sensitive evidence has been submitted to the inquiry that the Observer has been told it is being kept in a “strong room”. Only those with proper passes and reasons for access are allowed in and out. One source said some of the claims about parties were “decidedly weird”, and that new information would come to light.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s eagerly anticipated appearance – which could be one of only a small number of public hearings – will happen later than originally planned as a result of the quantity of documents the committee has been given. He is now expected to appear before the cameras next month. This will be broadcast live on parliament’s televised feed, and Sky News is already understood to have decided to show his whole evidence session.

The stakes have been raised in recent weeks as Johnson has broken cover with a series of speeches and appearances, some designed to keep his supporters onside and others to cash in since leaving office – a process he has described to friends as putting “hay in the loft” before he can embark on a comeback.

Last week, he recorded a £1m donation to his office from Christopher Harborne, a Thai-based British businessman who had previously given millions of pounds to Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. He and his family are also being supported by the billionaire Bamford family, who have provided Johnson with two homes declared as costing £10,000 each for the month.

The events that took place in Whitehall during the pandemic are already being raised ahead of the privileges committee examination. Last week, Johnson was accused of joking at one leaving party during lockdown that “this is the most unsocially distanced party in the UK right now”. He repeatedly told MPs that he did not know gatherings broke Covid laws in place at the time.

A spokesperson for Johnson did not deny the comment but said the then prime minister had “worked constantly” to ensure the government did all it could to save lives and protect livelihoods during the pandemic.

Whatever happens during the live questioning of Johnson during the inquiry, some MPs believe there is also a serious problem ahead for Rishi Sunak over the parties inquiry. MPs will have to vote on any sanction on Johnson recommended by the cross-party committee. While it is likely to be a “free” unwhipped vote, some MPs said that, in reality, Tories would seek advice over how they should vote.

One Labour MP predicted the event would end up being a “win-win” for Keir Starmer. “Let’s say that the committee decides the House was misled and Johnson is either forced to apologise to the House or suspended,” they said. “The government has to table a motion on that. Will they be whipping people to support it, or to vote down a Labour amendment designed to increase the sanction against him? They will be terrified about what to do. If he doesn’t defend Johnson, Johnson could try to take Sunak down. If he does defend him, the voters will take a dim view.”

Should Johnson navigate the privileges inquiry and retain support within the Tory party, some MPs are speculating that he may attempt to switch seats as his current Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency is a winnable target for Labour.

One of his options is to secure a seat from one of the supporters he has placed in the House of Lords. They include Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams, both of whom have safe Tory seats. Their elevation to the Lords is understood to have been delayed until closer to the election, to avoid hard byelections for the government.