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BMA backs campaign to widen participation in medicine

Potential medicine applicants from hard-to-reach backgrounds need help to understand what work experience they need.

houses of parliamentThis and other recommendations were highlighted at the launch of the SEEG (Selecting for Excellence Executive Group) project’s final report today at Westminster.

BMA medical students committee co-chair Charlie Bell welcomed the launch of the report and said the association was fully committed to driving forward the work of the SEEG.

Speaking at the event, Mr Bell said the BMA ‘steadfastly believed’ in the widening participation agenda, which is a priority for his committee.

‘We look forward to seeing medical schools playing their part through initiatives outlined by the work of the SEEG, of which we were a proud part,’ he said.

‘It is crucial that those with the potential to study medicine are able to see it as a viable option, irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances.’

First in the family

Opening the launch, former president of the Royal College of Physicians of London Baron Turnberg said he felt an affinity with the SEEG's work as no one in his own family had been to university or worked as a doctor, yet he had gone on to study medicine.

‘Many bright capable young pupils who could easily make good doctors don’t get a chance because they don’t have any examples in their families as doctors or [who have] been to universities,’ he said.

SEEG chair Tony Weetman, also the pro-vice chancellor of medicine at the University of Sheffield, said the consistent message was that potential applicants’ career advisers were confused about entry requirements for medicine.

Professor Weetman said: ‘We have clearly got a huge pool of talent out there that could be unleashed for the benefit of patients.’

He said the project team had produced guidance for medical schools on outreach programmes and what a good access course should look like, as well as for applicants on what work experience they should have.

Professor Weetman also reiterated the need for medical schools to use a variety of contextual data in their admissions process to ensure applicants are given the best chance.

Careers advice

Health minister Dan Poulter (pictured below) praised the medical profession for being increasingly representative of women and multicultural Britain, but said social mobility remained a challenge and ‘great applicants’ were being missed.

Dan PoulterDr Poulter emphasised the importance of work experience and supporting the young people with ‘the right core values’ who may not have access to good careers advice or established links to appropriate work experience in the area.

‘We need to make sure there is the careers advice and the opportunities for work experience for people from at all different backgrounds not just for people from schools with good links,’ he said.

‘Our profession is worse for not having people from different socio-economic backgrounds.’

Office for Fair Access director of fair access to higher education Les Ebdon said the report would help people without a family connection or history in medicine.

Professor Ebdon said: ‘This report is an early Christmas present for those people in underrepresented groups considering a career in medicine.’

Ear to the ground

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said that, as the regulator responsible for medical education and training, his organisation had a ‘sound knowledge’ of what was happening on the ground.

‘We are able to share this information with others to help evaluate and improve the future of medical education and training.

‘We hope that our work alongside the MSC and others will help to develop this resource into an important tool for this purpose,' he said.

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