Formulae for growth

March 27, 1998

Medical education is preparing for a revolution that may never happen. Julia Hinde reports

Medical academics met in London this week to discuss how best to expand medical education following a recent recommendation that Britain train 1,000 more doctors each year.

While the government considers the recommendation of the Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee, the higher education funding councils are collating information on the likely costs of different expansion models, which range from increasing intakes on existing undergraduate courses to creating fast-track degrees for graduates and founding new medical schools.

Despite the many ideas and the enthusiasm for inventiveness that are sweeping the sector, no one at the Association for the Study of Medical Education meeting could say whether the government's comprehensive spending review will find the funds necessary for the cost of expansion, which could be up to Pounds 200 million a year. It is not known if the government will pursue expansion plans if the cash is not forthcoming. No announcement is expected until July.

Nottingham vice-chancellor Sir Colin Campbell, who wrote the MWSAC report, said it seemed to have received "some degree of support". He would be "very disappointed" if the recommendations were not accepted, he said.

Others are more cautious. One leading medical commentator suggested that "considerable views" existed in the Department of Health as to whether an expansion on this scale was necessary. But the commentator said: "They will have to do something."

Any increase would likely be introduced in phases rather than in one go.

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