Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is pledging 1,500 additional medical school training places in the UK every year in a bid to plug the workforce shortfall as well as reduce reliance on overseas staff.

Currently the number of medical places is capped to 6,000; addressing delegates at the Conservatives party conference in Birmingham this week Hunt said there would be up to a 25 percent increase on this by 2018.

"Universities can only offer places to half of those who apply to study medicine, but this new measure will allow all domestic students with the academic grades, skills and capability to train as a doctor to have the chance to do so," according to the Department of Health.

The health secretary also unveiled plans to explore ways to ensure that graduates provide a return on taxpayer investment to the NHS through, for example, a minimum period of NHS service.

"As well as delivering higher standards today, we need to prepare the NHS for the future," said Hunt.

"Currently, we rely heavily on doctors from overseas - who do a fantastic job but are often taken from developing countries that need them - as well as expensive agency staff. By dramatically expanding our supply of home-grown doctors, we will ensure the NHS always has the doctors it needs," he noted.

Doctors' leaders are warning that the move doesn't go far enough.

"Jeremy Hunt has been health secretary for four years, and while it is welcome that he has finally admitted the government has failed to train enough doctors to meet rising demand, this announcement falls far short of what is needed," said British Medical Association council chair Dr Mark Porter.

"We desperately need more doctors, particularly with the government plans for further seven-day services, but it will take a decade for extra places at medical school to produce more doctors."

He also noted that the initiative "will not stop the NHS from needing to recruit overseas staff," who bring "great skill and expertise to the NHS" and without whom the service would not be able to cope.

The government, Dr Porter argues, must tackle the root causes of the workforce crisis and the reasons UK-trained doctors are leaving the NHS "rather than forcing doctors to stay in a profession in which they can see no future".

Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "With the emergency care system at crisis point, this long term solution will do nothing to have any beneficial effect on the immediate crippling shortages of doctors in the UK. More urgent action is needed to address the short term challenges to give time for longer term solutions, such as this one, to deliver."