Medics flood wards and try patients

June 28, 1996

Calls for a new medical school to teach rising numbers of medical students were made by the British Medical Association this week.

The association's annual meeting voted for a new school after it heard tales about overcrowding from students around the country.

A survey by the medical students committee revealed that Aberdeen University is repeating some lectures an hour later because it cannot fit all its students into the lecture hall. Other schools are relaying their lectures to adjacent rooms using teleconferencing; some are cramming students into the aisles.

Helen Fallon, chair of the medical students committee, said: "We have also had reports from most schools of not enough computer facilities, not enough labs and not enough library services."

The Government has ordered a rise in the number of medical students because of projections that there will be a dearth of doctors in a few years' time. Medical school deans have said that they can accommodate just under half of these, although this has been disputed by students. This leaves about 280 students yet to be housed.

In addition, there is a new curriculum which emphasises teaching in small groups, requiring more staff, heavier use of the library, and earlier exposure to patients.

Ms Fallon claimed that doctors at teaching hospitals are regularly taking groups of up to 18 students to visit patients. As a result patients are refusing to be seen by students.

* Medical academics can no longer fulfil their roles because of a triple whammy of cuts, the BMA agreed. The Medical Research Council is funding less than 30 per cent of alpha-rated research proposals; efficiency gains in the NHS have hit academic work in teaching hospitals; and the crisis in funding has left 50 medical chairs vacant.

The BMA praised two committees set up to look at such problems, those of Rex Richards and Ron Dearing. But it called for an end to the one-third cut in capital funding.

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