Doctor course to relieve pressure

September 8, 1995

Keele University's school of postgraduate medicine is pioneering a degree aimed at prospective consultants in the health service.

Brian McGuinness, head of the school's centre for primary health care, said the course was "the first out of the traps" in offering a non-specialist postgraduate education for young doctors who were facing new and increasing pressures.

The NHS reforms mean consultants must understand management issues, be able to evaluate practices critically and pay attention to their own career development as well as that of the staff they supervise.

Prospective consultants have traditionally taken an MD research degree to enhance job prospects, but Professor McGuinness said many saw this as an academic hurdle, focusing on applied science in the laboratory, rather than relevant to their subsequent career needs.

The two-year, part-time master of medical science course covers management, ethics and medical education which were not readily found in existing programmes.

"We took account of what consultants told us they wished they had done," he said. "The days of being amateur sages without taking cognisance of the general ethical position have gone."

The course includes a small research project, but Professor McGuinness stressed that while doctors from different specialisms would study together in small mentoring groups, the research would apply to the doctors' own disciplines.

"The research must be of very practical value to patients, seeking to influence and improve patient care," he said. "People can carry the research element forward to doctorate level later if they're fired with enthusiasm."

The initial intake will be 12, which is expected to rise to 20 within three years.

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