Round-up of bids to expand teaching

March 27, 1998

Medical education is preparing for a revolution that may never happen. Julia Hinde reports

Universities must submit costings for expanding medical education to the Higher Education Funding Councils by mid-April.

Bids from universities withoutmedical schools include: The University of East Anglia, the latest university to join the rush for medical students, has plans for a four-year medical degree. UEA, which trains nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists but not medics, wants to open a medical school for both school-leavers and graduates.

Medical degrees now take five, sometimes six, years. In their first two years, medical students study for 30 weeks; in the final three they study for 44 to 48 weeks. UEA intends to train doctors in just four years, with each year divided into three semesters of 15 weeks.

UEA, which adjoins the new Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, says it would teach medics alongside other health students, such as nurses, for much of the course.

Although many medical schools have altered curricula to cope with the changing face of medicine - increasing integration of clinical and theoretical units, primary and secondary care - Shirley Pearce, dean of the school of health at UEA, told this week's Association for the Study of Medical Education meeting that incremental changes have not done enough to equip doctors for work in the new century.

Proposing a new school, she said: "A fresh start from a different perspective would have the advantage of delivering a new curriculum and process of education that is tailor-made to meet the range of skills needed for today's doctors."

The Open University proposes a postgraduate-only networked medical school with students based at up to 90 GP practices and 18 district general hospitals, rather than at a single medical school site. Students would get seminars via an information technology network and hands-on training from clinical tutors.

Brighton and Sussex universities are also considering founding a medical school. Consultants Coopers and Lybrand is costing the proposal.

Warwick University is proposing to join forces with the medical school at Leicester University to increase intakes. Plans include an accelerated four-year programme for graduates of other subjects who want to enter medicine.

Durham University is working on a joint bid with Newcastle, in which up to 70 extra students could be taught at Durham in the first two years and then move to Newcastle for three years more.

Plymouth and Exeter universities are talking with Bristol University about expansion. Keele University is talking with Manchester University; and Hull and Wolverhampton university have expressed interest in collaborating.

Bids from universities with medical schools include: Almost all of the existing undergraduate medical schools in the UK are expected to bid.

Birmingham University, already one of the country's largest medical schools, has come up with one of the biggest bids. It wants to raise its annual medical intake by more than 50 per cent to 340 students. It has already grown by 40 per cent in the past five years, but it aims to bid for 120 more students a year if the government expands the system.

* The United Kingdom has 24 medical schools, which take 4,894 students a year. Enrolments are due to rise to 5,100 by 2001

. * In December, the Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee recommended that the number of medical students rise 20 per cent above this to cope with demand as the population ages and employment patterns change, partly because of more part-time working.

* Women make up 54.4 per cent of admissions to medical school and are demanding more flexible working patterns.

* More medical students are needed to prevent overreliance on doctors from overseas, who make up a quarter of the UK medical workforce.

* It is estimated to cost up to Pounds 500,000 to train a doctor to registration.

* The MWSAC suggested that 1,000 more doctors (equivalent to 40 extra doctors a year in each existing medical school) might cost an extra Pounds 200 million a year.

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