Germany plans to cut the number of medical students by 20 per cent in an attempt to tackle high unemployment among doctors and to improve the quality of medical training.
Health Minister Horst Seehofer said the plans, contained in a bill to reform the medical licensing law, will be agreed by the cabinet next month. The new training regulations would then come into practice in German university medical departments in October 1998.
As well as tackling oversupply, the reform also aims to make medical training more practical and problem-oriented. Professionals claim German medical students learn lots of theory but cannot put it into context. Students only understand the context "if they examine patients and take part in the healing procedure of a treatment rather than study in ivory towers," said Frank Ulrich Montgomery, chairman of the Marburger Bund, the German doctors' association.
Under the new arrangements, students would be taught in smaller groups, no more than six students would take part in patient demonstrations and only two in patient examinations. They would also be taught economic issues and cost-consciousness. Dr Montgomery said the plans were a "very sensible beginning", although he would have liked to have seen an even bigger cuts in student places.
At least 10,000 new students a year in Germany embark on medicine degrees. Professional organisations say the number is far too high and estimate there are between 11,000 and 15,000 unemployed doctors in Germany.