‘Lot of work’ being done to get NHS Devon out of special measures, says Health Secretary at medical training unveiling

By Bradley Gerrard, local democracy reporter

A “lot of work” is being done to help NHS Devon escape special measures, the Health Secretary Victoria Atkins has said, as she unveiled extra medical training places for the county.

Ms Atkins, who has held the Health and Social Care Secretary role for around six months, said the Government was “looking to the future” and that the extra medical school places announced for Exeter and Plymouth as part of a nationwide scheme would provide a boost.

In relation to NHS Devon being in special measures, she stated efforts were being made locally to improve the situation.

“The regime of special measures is aimed at helping those trusts and integrated care boards that are struggling to get back to the standards we expect, and there is a lot of work going on in the local area to address this.”

Part of the wider strategy, though, is to create more medical training places so the country can train more doctors.

“These extra places mean that more medical students will study here and if you have people training in the local area, in places like Exeter, a lot of them will stay here when they want to develop their careers,” she said.

“That’s great news for the local community, having medical students who can build their careers here and around the South West.”

The University of Exeter will be given 10 more medical school places at the start of the next academic year, with the University of Plymouth securing 17. The South West’s total is 44 thanks to Bristol also securing 17.

Earlier this week, a total of 350 extra medical school places were announced nationwide for the 2025/26 academic year.

The Government said the new medical school places aim to address uneven distribution and support under-doctored areas across the country, helping to bridge the gap in medical education access.

The Office for Students (OfS) used analysis of geographical distribution provided by NHS England to target under-doctored areas in its allocation of the places.

Besides London, which secured 10 additional places, the South West secured the least new training spots, but Bristol and Plymouth were ranked joint-fourth out of the 34 universities to receive extra training spaces.

Only the University of Surrey (34), Anglia Ruskin University (28) and the University of East Anglia (27) secured more new spots.

The moves to increase the number of medical school places is part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, and in its first year last year, an additional 205 spaces were created, including government-funded places to three schools for the first time.

The Government said the latest move builds on the 25 per cent expansion of medical school places in England that was completed in 2020, taking the total number of places to 7,500 per year and delivering five new medical schools.

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