Putting a doctor through medical school “costs the taxpayer” £230,000.
That’s wrong. About £64,300 of that comes in student loans, most of which the government gets back. The rest comes in grants for tuition, living costs and clinical placements.
What was claimed
Training a doctor costs £230,000.
This is the overall cost of training a doctor according to the Department of Health. It isn't the cost to the taxpayer. £163,000 comes in non-repayable grants. Students will repay much of the rest, whether or not they work in the NHS.
That £230,000 estimate includes repayable student loans, as well as grants to cover tuition fees, living costs and the cost of clinical placements.
It’s not the cost to "the taxpayer". Students have to repay the loans anyway, regardless of whether they work for the NHS.
The estimate comes from the Department of Health. It’s consulting on whether new doctors should have to spend a fixed term working in the NHS. Under the proposals, doctors who don’t might have to pay “a sum of money in addition to their loan repayments” to reflect the cost of training them.
Someoutlets have reported the £230,000 figure as the taxpayer’s investment in each doctor. That’s misleading in this context, but it’s easy to see why the mistake may have happened.
Here’s how the figure was quoted in the Department of Health’s press release, which you can read for yourself here:
Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, used a similar figure in a similar context when he outlined the proposal at the Conservative party conference back in October:
You can watch the speech as it was delivered here. We’ve asked the government if Jeremy Hunt was referring to the same estimates.
The government should make it explicit that these costs are not all borne by the taxpayer and that students are already obliged to “pay back” the part that comes in student loans, whether or not they go on to work for the NHS.
The government ultimately pays less than £230,000 to put a doctor through medical school
The £230,000 estimate can be broken down into approximately:
£163,000 paid in grants that the government won’t get back. These either go directly to students, to healthcare providers to support clinical placements, or to universities to reflect the higher costs of delivering medical education.
Given that, we expect the final cost to “the taxpayer” is closer to £163,000 than £230,000.
Including private funding, the total cost of training a doctor will be higher than £230,000
The Department of Health’s estimate doesn’t include any private funding that supports students through their degree, so it won’t tell you the full cost of training a doctor to both individuals and the government.
Training costs after medical school
Before the government published its estimates in March, the other set we could find came from the the Personal Social Services Research Unit.
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