Medical students demand action on environment, financial support and diversity

by Jennifer Trueland

Students from across the UK took part in this year’s BMA medical students conference, which was held virtually.

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 1 April 2021
Meghrawi 36939

In two days of lively discussion, delegates called for action on a variety of topics ranging from how medicine was taught in universities to the experience of international students.

Specifically, they backed taking action on:

  • Improving environmentally-friendly practices and procurement in NHS supply chains, particularly on personal protective equipment provision
  • Addressing poor financial support for international students and high tuition fees
  • Incorporating mental health support as a criterion for university league tables
  • Improving racial diversity in teaching of health presentations in different patients
  • Improving awareness of specific learning differences in medical school
  • Ensuring that public health campaigns are accessibly promoted in different languages.

Khadija Meghrawi (pictured above), the chair of the BMA medical students' conference, said it was an inspiring two days, which had left her heart full.

‘In medicine we must be radical and challenge other systems that have failed us and society,’ she tweeted.

‘Every one of you did so.’

Paid shadowing

Aisling McCarthy MCCARTHY: Role-shadowing welcome

Meanwhile, medical students have welcomed a UK-wide initiative to support newly qualified doctors. Under the arrangements, final-year medical students – whose training has been disrupted by COVID-19 – will be entitled to five extra days’ voluntary paid shadowing compared with previous years.

Aisling McCarthy, the chair of the BMA’s Northern Ireland medical students committee, who is a fifth year student herself, said it was a positive move.

‘We welcome this extended period of role-shadowing for final-year medical students who just this week received their final exam results and are now looking forward to becoming practising foundation year one doctors in the summer,’ she said.  

‘This has been a very challenging 12 months for final year medical students and, indeed, all medical students. Not only have clinical placements and patient contact time been significantly disrupted due to the pandemic, students have had to navigate the isolation of remote learning away from their peers and, in some cases, deal with the added anxiety of technical issues disrupting some online exams. 

‘The opportunity to spend time shadowing senior doctors ahead of taking up trainee clinical posts in August will go some way to enhancing our confidence as we embark on the first steps of what we hope will be long careers in the health service.’