Our vision for the future of medical education and training

This document sets out a major programme of work which we’re developing, to revise and adapt education and training in the UK for medical students and doctors1. We want to work with others across the system to make it a reality.

Our role

We have a regulatory responsibility for overseeing all stages of education and training for doctors. We ensure that high standards continue to be met and assess all changes against our five principles:

  • Ensure patient safety
  • Maintain standards
  • Assess outcomes achieved not time spent
  • Assure competency
  • Maintain proportionality and support diversity.

Our responsibilities will soon extend to regulate PAs and AAs. Our initial focus will be on ensuring the right pre-qualification structures and processes are in place to assure ourselves of a consistent standard for them to be included on the register, but the principles in this statement could apply for these groups as well.

What we plan to do

In applying these principles, we believe there are three key areas to address:

  • creating more, increasingly diverse, better supported educators, supervisors, trainers and mentors
  • responding to wider national ambitions for increases in medical school capacity and innovation, whilst maintaining standards
  • supporting career development and lifelong learning for all doctors.

We will work in collaboration with partners across the four UK nations.

Area 1: Building a bigger, more diverse, and better supported multidisciplinary educator workforce

The people who perform the vital function of educating doctors – educators, supervisors, trainers and mentors - need the time and resources to enable them to undertake their roles. This requires protected time for educators, but also resources and adequate support.

Part of achieving this will involve promoting innovation, including using technology and learning from the pandemic to explore alternative approaches that can utilise educators’ skills more effectively. However, it will also require a significant increase in the supply of multidisciplinary educators to meet the expected demand.

We will work with educators’ representatives, UK governments, regulators, and statutory education bodies in supporting these ambitions.

Area 2: Contributing to the development of changes in pre-qualification education

As the regulator of the quality of prequalification medical education, courses are only approved if they meet our standards. We will support the wider ambitions for enhancing and improving undergraduate, pre-qualification education and increasing capacity across the four countries of the UK as long as these standards are met. This includes innovation around delivery methods and the length of study and initiatives such as apprenticeships. 

Our role is not to design these courses, but to require assurance that standards are being met and assurance of the continued high quality of training. The new Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) will give us greater assurance that standards continue to be met.

The expansion of undergraduate medical places across the UK, including to relatively under-doctored areas, is welcome. Governments need now to set out the criteria by which additional places and new schools will be allocated so we can work with those organisations to establish them in a timely manner that meet our standards.

Area 3: Supporting career development and lifelong learning

Doctors should be able to develop and pursue their careers based on evidence of their knowledge, skills, and experience, both inside and outside formal training pathways. This will require ensuring that formal training adapts to meet employers’, trainees’ and, most importantly, patients’ needs with greater flexibility and curricula that reflect the skills needed for the UK population. An approach focused on outcomes, rather than time or numbers, will provide the basis for career development and opportunities for all professionals. 

This is also important for Specialty, Specialist and Locally Employed doctor populations, the fastest growing groups of doctors. Creating more consistent learning and recognition for these groups could be enabled by common processes, available to all, that record and collate knowledge, skills and experience that could then be used to demonstrate capability in another role. We will support others in delivering this.

Achieving these objectives requires a concerted system-wide approach, and there are a number of areas that will need to be driven forward by others:

  • Employers will need to make training a greater priority and provide their staff with sufficient time and resources to support education activities.
  • Governments need to set out how increases in medical school student numbers will be allocated, including setting out criteria and locations for any new medical schools.
  • Medical schools will need to develop updated curricula, including innovative design, and engage with us to support their development.
  • Statutory education bodies, postgraduate deans, royal colleges, medical schools and employers will need to consider how to develop and support educators, identifying new delivery models for education and using new technologies more. They will also need to continue work to eliminate the attainment gap.
  • Organisations need to develop common systems for recording and demonstrating knowledge, skills, and experience, with recognition across specialties.

1Our responsibilities will soon extend to regulating Physician Associates (PAs) and Anaesthesia Associates (AAs). Our initial focus will be on ensuring the right pre-qualification structures and processes are in place to assure ourselves of a consistent standard for them to be included on the register. Once brought into regulation the principles in this statement will apply to these professions as well.