Off the mark

November 19, 1999

Duncan Campbell reported that "many future doctors said they falsified patients' documents when under pressure" ("Stethoscopes and lies", THES, November 12). This misleading statement gives the impression that the accuracy of patients' records is suspect.

The focus of our reported study was misconduct at an undergraduate level and concerned submission of assessment material. This material does not directly affect patient records or patient care. The study was commissioned because of concerns that curricula that encourage continuous assessment rather than traditional, invigilated examinations may provide more opportunities for students to cheat.

Medical education has undergone dramatic changes in the past decade, initiated predominantly by the publication of the General Medical Council's report on undergraduate medical education, Tomorrow's Doctors. At Dundee Medical School, different assessment methods are used in different years of the course, and the study was undertaken to look at these differences. Some of the results are of concern, but they do not have any bearing on immediate patient care as the report may have implied.

The results of the study have been used to guide the development of the medical school's code of practice document on issues of fraud and plagiarism. The study has also shown where administration procedures can be modified to take pressures off students. It is disappointing to see a useful piece of work sensationalised and misrepresented.

Joy Crosby Lecturer in medical education Sarah Rennie Junior house officerDundee University Medical School

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