At a ceremony in Grenada, leaders of Health Education England (HEE), part of the National Health Service (NHS), and St George’s University (SGU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enable SGU School of Medicine graduates to undertake postgraduate training in England, with the first intake expected in the autumn of 2018. SGU School of Medicine is the only Caribbean medical school in a direct agreement with Health Education England for the first 18-month program to provide graduates for post-graduate training. The agreement is expected to facilitate 50-100 trainees annually from SGU School of Medicine entering the NHS in England.
This agreement establishes a pathway for a significant number of SGU School of Medicine graduates to join the Widening Access to Specialty Training (WAST) Programme, an initiative within NHS that recruits overseas postgraduate doctors, with a focus on ensuring they are able to enter general practice and psychiatry training programmes, the expansion of both specialties being a key priority for the NHS. Sixteen SGU graduates will begin WAST in the next seven months, with many more in the application process.
Graduates will undertake one or two post-graduate foundation years, depending on prior experience, followed by entry into specialty training. This postgraduate training is recognised for licensure and given credit in the UK, the European Union, and Commonwealth countries.
“Our role is to ensure the health workforce in England can meet the challenges faced by the NHS, which includes the provision of services in underserved areas,” said Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive of Health Education England. “We are very impressed that graduates provided by SGU are of the high standard demanded by the NHS; I look forward to the first intake arriving in 2018.”
HEE Director of Global Engagement Ged Byrne added, “St. George’s students are well qualified and talented. We anticipate they will have great success in our post-graduate training programmes and in practice in the UK afterwards.”
“This agreement highlights the increasingly important role played by SGU as an international institution in global health care,” said Dr. G Richard Olds, President of SGU. “Our extensive network of partner universities and teaching hospitals around the world, including in England, ensures our students receive a comprehensive education in a range of clinical environments. This is reflected in the fact that we are the only Caribbean medical school to enter into an agreement with HEE, enabling our graduates to apply for the WAST programme. England has one of the most stringent regulatory frameworks in the world, and that our graduates now have this opportunity is reflective of their calibre. We are delighted that this major development has taken place in the 70th anniversary year of the NHS.”
With intakes in February and August each year, most successful applicants will join a one-year post-graduate foundation clinical course in England, where they will improve the skills and competencies required for admission to specialty training. The programme will typically consist of six months of psychiatry training followed by six months in an acute hospital setting. Upon completing the programme, graduates will be eligible to apply for an Alternative Certificate of Foundation Competencies, after which they can apply for a three-year programme of specialty training in England.
Commenting on the importance of the agreement for SGU in the UK, Rodney Croft, Dean of Clinical Studies, UK, said, “I am delighted that St. George’s medical graduates, some of whom have received clinical training in our 17 NHS affiliated hospitals in England, will now have the opportunity to return to England to practice—thereby helping to offset the numerical and specialty shortage of doctors we are presently experiencing.”
The location of training for those on the WAST programme will be assigned by HEE, with most programmes focusing on areas of acute shortage, predominantly in the Midlands, East, North and South West of England, Yorkshire, and the Humber. Successful applicants will be offered their highest available location preference.
“One of our central aims is to find ways to train doctors in the areas they are needed most,” continued Dr. G. Richard Olds, SGU President. “The global shortage of medical professionals is exacerbated by maldistribution, both by geography and specialty. This agreement, which will encourage our graduates to train in family medicine and psychiatry in areas of England with the greatest need, is one example of how we are making a significant positive impact around the world.”