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Students decide: dilemmas over debt

Welsh party Plaid Cymru would pay off medical students’ debts if they committed to working in areas with too few doctors. What would entice students to accept ‘golden handcuffs’ in exchange for less debt? 

Would you train in a certain location if it meant clearing your student debts?

Your views:

pie chart 1Don’t know: ‘Student debt can be a daunting thought for some medical students, especially given the recent increase in fees and the concerns regarding potential unemployment for some upon graduation. For some students, committing to a certain location or specialty might not be much of a sacrifice, and for some others it may encourage them to consider that area or field. However, it may only attract trainees who would have considered that area anyway. In theory, yes, I would consider it.’

Hull York final year Melody Redman

No: ‘It seems unfair that students from less wealthy backgrounds might feel forced to train in a specialty or area that wasn’t their main interest, and choosing such a post over an alternative could be detrimental to their future career. Making areas with too few doctors more attractive is important, but this may not be the best way forward.’

Oxford fourth year

Yes: ‘I believe this would create an unfair advantage in the jobs market for the Welsh hospitals. If the scheme were to be applied, I think it should be rolled out across the whole of the UK rather than just to Wales.’

UCL (University College London) second year James North

Yes: ‘In exchange for donating my student debt, I would be happy to train on a tropical island of some nature.’

UCL third year Paul Morillon

Yes: ‘I would certainly consider training in a certain location to clear student debt as this would not have a major impact on my future career. However, I would not sacrifice my chosen specialty to clear student debt as this is likely to have an impact on my long-term career prospects in that specialty.’

Manchester final year Mustafa Yusuf

Would you train in a certain specialty if it meant clearing your student debts?

Your views:

Pie chart 2No: ‘I believe a doctor should be passionate about the specialty that they have chosen. I am not sure this is a good use of public funds, but it might be if it ensures recruitment of enough doctors in Wales.’

Norwich fourth year Anthony Baynham

No: ‘It is important that a medical graduate is driven through postgraduate training by their interest in a particular specialty and their own initiative to learn. Otherwise, we may risk creating a sub-culture of medical trainees driven purely by financial incentive.’

Liverpool third year Samantha Dolan

No: ‘Being an international student, this does not apply to me but if it did, I would be interested. Having said that, I would not pick my specialty because of that. Once your student debts have been paid, you would still have to work in that specialty, so it’s best to pick a specialty that is liked rather than lucrative.’

Norwich third year Dominique Lentchou

Yes: ‘Medical schools have always played an essential role in responding to the workforce demands of the NHS. It’s not an unreasonable step to influence the migration of junior doctors and their training, based on demand. Clearing debt would be a massive incentive. As a graduate studying undergraduate medicine as a second degree, I’d take this option in a heartbeat.’

Barts and the London first year Christopher Smith

No: ‘It wouldn’t be right to allow the allure of a reduced student debt to have a bearing on one’s career path. Money had no bearing upon my decision to study medicine, so nor should it affect my preference for specialty training. After committing a minimum of seven years of your life to reach the beginning of specialty training, why sacrifice your ideal job for something different?’

Brighton and Sussex second year Thomas Walton

Would such a scheme be a good use of taxpayers’ money?

Your views:

Pie chart 3Yes: ‘Being from Wales, I was already planning to train there. This news would be a cherry on the cake. I think this would be a reasonable use of taxpayers’ money as it would encourage junior doctors to work in these understaffed deaneries. The public will then be better served by adequately staffed hospitals and trusts.’

Imperial College London Rhys Davies

Yes: ‘Encouraging people to work in neglected areas and specialties is a fair use of taxpayers’ money. We don’t want all of the best doctors going into the same specialties and the same location, as this means the people not living in these areas or suffering from certain conditions get a far worse service than those that do — this is patently unfair. Whether just using financial measures will work is debatable, and such a system would need to be reviewed to see if it is effective, but in principle could be a pleasant way to get applicants to look at previously neglected areas.’

UCL fifth year Max Keech

Yes: ‘Incentivising doctors to work in less popular areas is not a new concept. Many governments, including in Canada, Australia and the USA provide “rural retention” bonuses for doctors willing to work in more remote areas. However, it would be important for Plaid Cymru to undertake a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of paying student loans versus other measures, such as hiring more locums. Nonetheless, this sounds like a very enticing measure.’

Manchester fourth year Alicia Pawluk

No: ‘As it stands, student debt is quite a good debt to have. It has no detrimental influence over your credit rating and is often very cheap to repay. This money would be far better used to cover students’ costs upfront, such as offering more bursaries to attract students to certain universities, or financially incentivising certain jobs in certain locations — paying extra for the unsociable hours worked by junior doctors in emergency departments. 
Such policies offer far more tangible financial benefits to medical students and doctors, increasing the pull of the incentive, thus correcting workforce imbalance with far greater effectiveness than these proposals.’

Sheffield final year Will Sapwell

No: ‘This generation of students has been loaded with debt. It is therefore more attractive, even a necessity for some, to reduce debts by maximising income. I fear that introducing this difference in remuneration may lead to resentment among other healthcare staff. Since this move equates to a substantial pay rise for doctors it would not be unreasonable for objections to be raised, when all other staff are suffering a pay freeze.’

King’s College London final year Ben Williamson