A common first undergraduate year for doctors, nurses and other health professionals has received cautious backing from the British Medical Association.
The BMA's interim response to July's Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry report, chaired by Ian Kennedy, supports the idea of piloting a common first year in a small number of medical schools.
The report says: "The days when courses were designed exclusively for doctors or exclusively for nurses should be behind us."
It proposes that in this first year, "there would be a common core curriculum, aimed not so much at inculcating technical knowledge but at a broader understanding of health, healthcare and the National Health Service".
Vivienne Nathanson, head of health policy at the BMA, said: "It is important to get this right. A number of models may be piloted. For example, it might be more sensible to do the common year in between pre-clinical and clinical training."
Graeme Catto, chairman of the education committee of the General Medical Council and dean of the Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Hospitals' Medical and Dental School, said: "There is considerable support for multidisciplinary education but very little objective evidence of benefit. A common first year for the different professional groups may be one way of proceeding. Other ways may include defining the desired outcomes from multidisciplinary education and then devising appropriate learning opportunities."
The interim response will go before the November meeting of the BMA's board for approval.
The BMA supported Professor Kennedy's proposal that greater priority should be given to non-clinical aspects of care in six areas: skills in communicating with patients and colleagues; education about the principles and organisation of the NHS, and about how care is managed, and the skills required for management; the development of teamwork; shared learning across professional boundaries; clinical audit and reflective practice; and leadership.
It agreed that the NHS and the public should be more involved in establishing the criteria for selection of student doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
It supported widening access to medical schools but warns: "The BMA is aware that many potential doctors are unable to finance their studies; means to aid such students must be found."