In response to an announcement from the Department of Health that the number of medical school places will increase from next year, BMA medical students committee co-chair Harrison Carter said:
"It’s reassuring that the government is committed to increasing access to medical school for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This has been something the BMA has campaigned and lobbied on for many years and today’s announcement reflects much of what the BMA called for in its response to the consultation1.
"In the past, half of all schools in the UK did not produce a single applicant to medicine and, in 2011, only four per cent of medical students came from low income backgrounds2. The medical profession should represent the people it serves and it is a progressive step to encourage applications from underrepresented groups.
"Medical graduates tend to continue to train and work in the region of their medical school so patients will benefit from a focus on recruiting students to universities in rural or coastal areas, but recruitment efforts need to be backed up by high-quality NHS training placements and incentives to study in these regions.
"Any increase in places must be matched with sufficient funding, and an increase in the number of university-based teachers to ensure universities are able to maintain educational standards and provide a high-quality educational experience for students. The number of foundation training posts must also be increased to reflect the larger number of graduating medical students so no doctor faces unemployment after qualifying.
"The students who will benefit from these new placements will take at least ten years to train and become senior doctors so we mustn’t forget this promise won’t tackle the immediate shortage of doctors in the NHS which could become more acute following Brexit. As such we require equal focus on retaining existing doctors in high-quality jobs which will provide more immediate relief to an overstretched medical workforce.
"Medical students also need clarity on whether they must work for the NHS for a minimum number of years following graduation. This proposal isn’t necessary as only a small minority of doctors do not complete their training in the NHS and it would only serve to worsen poor morale and potentially discourage students from choosing medicine. It could also be discriminatory towards women, who are more likely to take more career breaks than men."
Notes to Editors:
1 - The BMA responded to the Department of Health consultation on the expansion of medical school education in May. Read the response.
2 - The BMA’s report, The Right Mix looks at how the medical profession is diversifying the workforce and widening participation. Read the report.