DoH Proposes Expansion of Undergraduate Medical Education in England
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Responding to the Department of Health’s consultation regarding the proposed expansion of undergraduate medical education in England, Professor Michael Lavelle-Jones, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh said:
“Whilst the College welcomes the proposed expansion of undergraduate medical education, we strongly disagree with the proposal that graduates should be tied to the NHS for a set number of years. There will always be a small number of doctors who leave the UK to pursue their careers abroad, and another cohort who leave medicine altogether. As most medical graduates will have significant personal debt upon graduation, it seems unfair to then ask for further contributions should they no longer wish to pursue a medical career.
“Moreover, we have little doubt that such a course will put many people off applying for medicine, not least because it will be asking 18 year olds to commit themselves to a ten year career path that they may not be suited to or be able to complete. The significant costs of medical education and training are already known, so there is the risk that trainees pursue specialities that offer the best financial prospects rather than those that are required by the NHS as a whole.
“Any requirement to repay funding can only be justified if undergraduate medical education is made free to students and postgraduate trainees have all of their training costs paid for. Tuition fees and the high costs of medical education already act as a barrier for many. At a time when there are laudable efforts to wider access to the profession, we believe that the proposed tie-in will only further deter many applicants from less affluent backgrounds or who have dependents, yet have the potential to become excellent medical professionals.
"Good staff morale is a vital pre-requisite of good patient care in our NHS. This proposal will simply reduce morale even further. In simple terms, what medical students and junior doctors are being offered is a stick, with no guarantee of a proverbial carrot, in terms of addressing the root causes of their discontent.
“Therefore, attention must be given to addressing the root causes of low morale. This means better training programmes, improved terms and conditions, and portfolio careers which may involve a blend of education, research and clinical practice.
“Return on investments should be seen in improved patient outcomes, and this will only come from having a clinical workforce that is supported and given the time and space to continuously develop competencies and experience.”
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