Medical education is preparing for a revolution that may never happen. Julia Hinde reports
London's St George's Hospital Medical School this week took its case for Britain's first fast-track medical degree formally to the General Medical Council.
The plans for a three-year medical degree for graduates of other subjects, even non-science disciplines, are seen as a test case. GMC approval is needed for the course to proceed.
Leicester University, the United Medical and Dental School of Guys and St Thomas' Hospitals and Dundee University are believed to be considering a similar course, besides traditional undergraduate degrees, as a way of expanding medical school intake.
It is thought that a short course for postgraduates may appeal to the government as it considers how and whether to expand medical education. It would enable doctors to be trained more quickly than traditional five-year degrees. It would also allow students who may be suited to medicine but did not choose the subject at 18 to enter the profession.
The proposals from St George's will be considered first by a subcommittee of the GMC's education committee and then go to the education committee in late April and the GMC council in May.
There are concerns that three years is insufficient time to educate students in basic and clinical science. Robert Boyd, principal of St George's, this week stressed that candidates would have to show considerable scientific understanding. Similar fast-track courses are already run on the continent, in North America and Australia.
* St George's is talking to the Open University about writing a foundation course that could provide the science background for those interested in a postgraduate medical degree. It could be studied at home before students begin the medical course. The foundation course is not part of the submission St George's made to the GMC.