First-year doctors in Wales will continue to have access to free on-site housing under plans announced by the country’s health minister.

Edwina Hart said the assembly government has decided to extend the provision of free hospital accommodation indefinitely for F1 training grade doctors in Wales.

It had previously been decided that the accommodation would be available until summer 2010, but this will be extended for the foreseeable future after recommendations by an Accommodation Review Group supported by BMA Cymru Wales, the postgraduate deanery and the assembly.

The initiative was set up after medical students protested outside the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, when the requirement for pre-registration doctors to be resident at a hospital was removed from the Medical Act last year.

It is believed newly qualified junior doctors would have to pay around £4,800 a year without hospital accommodation, on top of average student debts of £20,000.

Welcoming the move, Welsh British Medical Association secretary Dr Richard Lewis said: “This announcement by the Welsh health minister demonstrates the assembly’s commitment to value the role of junior doctors in the NHS and will help to ensure Wales becomes the destination of choice for medical training.”