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BMA Q and A: oversubscription and widening access to medicine

BMA medical students committee co-chairs Charlie Bell (pictured right) and Harrison Carter (pictured left) answer your questions

What is the current situation with foundation programme places?

The UK Foundation Programme Office has recently confirmed the number of UK medical students predicted to graduate in 2015 exceeds the number of foundation programme places starting in August 2015.

BMA medical student committee co-chairs Harrison Carter and Charlie BellFinal oversubscription numbers will be announced in January 2015 after applicants who have been unable to prove their right to work in the UK have been withdrawn from the national process. This is the fifth consecutive year that the programme has been oversubscribed. 

Oversubscription has a huge psychological impact on final-year students who face anxiety and increased stress as they await news on whether they will receive a foundation programme place.

If UK medical students do not get a foundation programme place, they will be unable to register with the GMC and work as doctors. This means taxpayers’ money is being poorly spent and students rack up huge debts without guaranteed jobs.

We continue to lobby for a long-term solution that puts the protection of graduate-doctor jobs at its heart. This, in turn, would provide value for money and put patients first. 


The GMC has announced its intention to explore a national exam entitling medical graduates to practise as doctors. What are your views on this?

We believe that for medical students, this would be an unnecessary duplication of the prescribing safety assessment, situational judgement test — which are already standardised national exams — and individual medical school final exams. 

A national licensing exam would merely add a further test for students who are already subject to these rigorous examinations and assessments.

It is unclear why, when there is not yet solid evidence for the existing national assessments, another national exam is being considered.

The BMA medical students committee will continue to lobby against the introduction of a national exam and plans to continue its engagement activities with key organisations to highlight all the likely issues that will arise from the introduction of such a high-stake exam with no evidence.


How are plans to help increase access to the medical profession going?

We are steadfast believers in the widening participation agenda.

Through widening participation initiatives, medical schools can encourage those with the potential to study medicine to regard it as a viable option irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances.

People should become doctors based on their ability, not their ability to pay.

We are proud of our record working as part of the Selecting for Excellence group, which was initiated by the Medical Schools Council last year in a bid to boost access to medicine.



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