Hospital Dr News

Oversubscribed medical schools look to Government for funded solutions

The Government’s climbdown on A-levels in England has thrown medical schools into disarray.

Medical schools are now oversubscribed with students wishing to study medicine, and are being threatened with legal action by parents if places aren’t made available.

Many students planning a career in medicine lost their places after results were downgraded by the government’s standardisation algorithm.

But now, improved grades, mean some cannot get into their school of choice as numbers are limited and spaces have been filled.

The Health and Social Care Secretary suggested yesterday that the Government is considering lifting the current cap on medical school places in light of the issues.

Dr Helena McKeown, BMA representative body chair, and BMA lead for education, training and workforce, said: “The UK is vastly short of doctors so increasing the number of medics in training makes sense, however this must be followed up with support and funding for both the universities sector and the NHS further down the line.

“Extra students will require more clinical placements during medical school, more places in the foundation programme for new doctors, and ultimately the need to create more jobs when they fully qualify.

“We cannot afford to have new doctors finding themselves unemployed in five or 10 years time.”

The DfE announced the lifting of the student numbers cap on Monday amid the U-turn, and universities have been urged by the government to increase recruitment to ensure students with the required grades get places.

Medical and dentistry students are particularly problematic as course numbers are limited and competition for places fierce. It costs upwards of £50,000 a year to train a medic, so taking on more students has significant financial implications.

The University of East Anglia, for example, has 185 medical places but is now facing an oversubscription of up to 50 students.

Prof Richard Harvey, the academic director of admissions, said: “I have 1,500 emails in my inbox from angry people – mostly medics – all trying to work out what the hell they do now.

“It’s perfectly possible for ministers to convert an apology into something that’s meaningful, but that means opening the cheque book and fixing the problem. Especially as we were all clapping carers not so long ago. Weren’t we all meant to be supporting the NHS?”

Some leading universities warned that students who now have higher grades as a result of the policy change could be asked to defer their place if there is no space left on their preferred course.

Concern is growing, however, about the knock-on impact on pupils due to sit their A-levels next summer, who will face greater competition for places following this year’s overspill.

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