Brand New|Become a Doctor through a Medical Degree Apprenticeship

Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeships Launched: Everything you need to know

In early 2021, Health Education England announced plans to create apprenticeships that would enable students to train for a medical qualification and become doctors without having to go to university. 

The first wave of apprenticeships is expected to start in September 2023 and the main aims of the apprenticeship are to:

  1. Address the shortage of doctors in underserved areas
  2. Increase the financial accessibility of Medical degrees

We’ve got all the details you need below to find out more about this excciting new initiative.

What is the medical doctor degree apprenticeship (MDDA)?

A degree apprenticeship allows students to gain a full undergraduate or master’s degree whilst doing paid work/training at the same time. 

Medical Schools normally take students from a fairly narrow proportion of the population due to the duration and large financial costs associated with going to university to study medicine.

These costs discourage, or exclude, two major groups from pursuing medicine degrees:

  • Students in the process of completing secondary education
  • Aspiring doctors, already employed in other industries and other parts of the NHS, who do not believe they could afford to re-enter education to retrain as a doctor

This new apprenticeship will allow individuals to avoid these challenges by earning money while completing their degree. By removing the financial barrier, talented individuals from a much wider range of backgrounds will be able to become fully qualified doctors.

Maria Caulfield, Minister for Health, said: “It is vital that no talented student is hindered from pursuing medicine and this new apprenticeship will make a huge difference in improving access to the profession by enabling students to earn while they learn.” 

All Medical Doctor Degree Apprentices will combine work placements with study to complete a degree in Medicine from a UK university medical school that has been authorised to award Primary Medical Qualifications by the GMC

GMC: The General Medical Council is a public body that regulates UK medical doctors

The degree element of each apprenticeship will:

  • Follow the same curriculum as traditional students at that medical school 
  • Meet the GMC’s ‘Outcomes for Graduates’ standards
  • Be recognised internationally in the same way as current UK primary medical qualifications

Another way in which the pipeline of doctors is being expanded is through the new medical schools opened across England. Find out here for everything you need to know on those new places.

More on the benefits of the MDDA is included in the FAQs below.

Is the apprenticeship as 'official' as going to university to get a medical degree?

Yes! Professor Liz Hughes, Medical Director of undergraduate education at HEE (Health Education England), has said: “The Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship will make a career in medicine accessible for talented people from every background while maintaining the exact same high standards of training set out by the General Medical Council.” 

HEE has made it explicitly clear that there will be no difference between an apprenticeship doctor and a university-trained doctor. Any Medical school offering the MDDA has to be approved by General Medical Council, meaning there is no element, academic or practical, of a traditional medical education that will not be completed as part of the apprenticeship.

All of the training, the degree and its exams, and the professional standards are the same as they are for the traditional route.

Furthermore, upon completion of the apprenticeship, degree apprentices undertake further study and speciality training in the same programmes as medical school graduates. (For more information on what happens after the degree apprenticeship, see the FAQs below.)

To see a full list of the standards that degree apprentices are trained to, just like university students, click here

How have the training standards been developed?

When putting in place any new apprenticeship a set of standards has to be agreed upon.  The standard for the Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship was developed by an employer-led group that includes representation from many employers and wider stakeholders including the General Medical Council, the Medical Schools Council, Skills for Health and Health Education England.

It took the behaviours, skills, and knowledge requirements from the GMC’s Outcomes for Graduates (GMC 2018) which are the outcomes required for students to graduate as a doctor and put them into the template used by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, which is a non-departmental, public body which approves potential apprenticeships.

It took the behaviours, skills, and knowledge requirements from the GMC’s Outcomes for Graduates (GMC 2018) which are the outcomes required for students to graduate as a doctor and put them into the template used by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, which is a non-departmental, public body which approves potential apprenticeships.

Who will be delivering the training for MDDAs?

The Medical doctor degree apprenticeships will be delivered by medical schools (ie universities) or regional deaneries (the organisations that are in charge of training doctors who have graduated university). This is different to other types of healthcare apprenticeships that are traditionally delivered by apprenticeship training providers.

What are the benefits?

The requirement of both a high academic ability as well as payment of high tuition fees makes becoming a doctor seem to be exclusive to the middle and upper class. By making the medical doctor profession much more accessible, however, the MDDA will likely increase the representation of individuals from a much wider range of backgrounds.

Not only is this a benefit in itself, but the increase in representation should also encourage more individuals in the future, from all backgrounds, to apply to both degree apprenticeships and conventional medical degrees.

Additionally, doctors often work very closely with their local communities which makes it essential that people from all backgrounds can become one. The MDDA ensures that aspiring doctors from all backgrounds, regardless of how wealthy they are, are able to do this.

Finally, according to the NHS, there were 7,500 medical vacancies in England in Sept 2020. By introducing the MDDA, the profession will become so much more accessible, allowing talented people that were previously held back by circumstances outside of their control to finally fill these vacancies.

What are the entry requirements?

It is up to employers and medical schools to determine entry requirements (academic, behaviours, attitudes etc.), which are likely to include a contextual admissions policy.

They will likely be the same as they are in the traditional medical degree route for school leavers.

How much does it cost?

MDDA students will not pay student tuition fees and will instead have an income throughout their employment. (See ‘how much will I get paid?’ for more information.) There will be no ‘national model’ for an MDDA – different approaches may be taken forward, but all are subject to meeting the same apprenticeship standards and assessments described above. 

How will it be funded?

The apprenticeship will be funded through the apprenticeship levy – a Government pot of cash introduced in 2017 to partially fund apprenticeships for all employers in England with a pay bill of more than £3m. Apprenticeship schemes attract Government funding (via the Apprenticeship Levy) up to a maximum of £27,000 per apprenticeship.

As each Medical Doctor Degree Apprentice will be employed as an apprentice by a healthcare organisation, the healthcare organisation will meet the rest of the cost of the apprentice’s tuition.

When are they expected to start?

Health Education England had initially wanted to establish 100 places for September 2022 but now the scheme is due to launch in 2023, with the first wave of apprenticeships commencing in September 2023.

If the MDDA appeals to you, you should continue to check through the NHS as well as look at individual employers’ job notification boards for any apprenticeships that become advertised.

What happens when you’ve completed the apprenticeship?

Once the apprenticeship has been successfully completed, apprentices will be eligible to apply to the General Medical Council for provisional registration, granting them access to apply to the next stage of training, the UK Foundation Training Programme. 

Subject to satisfactory confirmation of Fitness to Practise by the GMC, progression will be granted into the Foundation Programme to undertake a further, higher-level programme of workplace-based, supervised training. 

Once this is completed, individuals will be eligible for full registration with the General Medical Council and be able to progress to further specialty training posts, following their path towards becoming a more experienced doctor in any field of medicine they wish.

Will the new apprenticeship route into medicine be the expected path for certain medical specialities, such as general practice?

The apprenticeship will cover the initial medical degree which includes no specialisms. Some medical school courses already have a greater focus on some areas such as Primary Care and this is likely to continue if that medical school chooses to offer the medical degree as an apprenticeship. As with current medical students, all apprentices can pursue the speciality of their choice.

How much are apprentices paid?

It is not confirmed what the salary for the degree apprenticeship will be, but apprentices are entitled to the national minimum wage:

  •  Under 18 – £4.81
  • 18-20 – £6.83
  • 21-22 – £9.18
  • 23 and Over – £9.50

National Minimum Wage Rates

It is likely that apprentices will be paid more than this, though, and will be paid more in later years of the apprenticeship

Are there other degree apprenticeships in healthcare?

There are loads! There is a variety of medical apprenticeships you can complete if you don’t want to train as a doctor. For example, there are apprenticeships in:

  •       Ambulance Practitioner
  •       Dental Nursing
  •       Maternity and Paediatric Support
  •       Podiatry Degree Apprenticeship
  •       Pharmacy Assistant
  •       Health and Social Care
  •       Nursing Degree Apprenticeship
  •       Health informatics
  •       Physician Associate
  •       Peer Support Worker

This list doesn’t even cover all of the available apprenticeships. Take a look at all of the NHS Apprenticeships available and for members can access our guide on healthcare apprenticeships the steps you need to take to pursue them.

That just about covers all the information we could find out about this new scheme. Stay tuned for more updates about the future of medical education!

Before you leave, take 5 mins and reflect on what you’ve learnt from this

  • What’s the difference between the apprenticeship and the traditional medical school route?

  • Are there other healthcare apprenticeships on offer that suit your interests?

Make a note of these reflections to help you on your journey towards your future.

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