A new style of teaching at medical schools has halved drop-out rates, according to the General Medical Council.
Since December 1993 most British medical schools have introduced new "Tomorrow's Doctor-style" curricula with active, modern methods of learning, a reduced core curriculum, greater access to patients from day one and more emphasis on public health and disease prevention. These have almost replaced traditional medical degrees where students were lectured in large groups and did not have regular contact with patients until their third or fourth year.
Charles George, head of the GMC education committee, said that prior to the changes, drop-out rates from medical courses were between 10 and 12 per cent.
"We have talked to 23 medical schools," he said. "Wastage rates have come down significantly. We are now talking of less than 5 per cent overall."
Roger Green, dean of Manchester University Medical School and a member of the GMC education committee, said attrition rates at his school had fallen from between 8 and 10 per cent to nearer 2 or 3 per cent since the change.
He attributed the drop to the different kind of teaching that is now based on small groups rather than lectures, and to the closer links between staff and students. He added that the reduction could also be attributed to students' early contact with patients and to the fact that students were now being interviewed before admission. "We were seriously worried on the old course about the drop-out numbers," he said. "Now we are not."