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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 11:06 GMT
Record number of trainee doctors
Medical students
There are more doctors in training than ever before
The government has exceeded its target for the number of doctors in training, with a report showing a record total of students enrolled in medical school.

Figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England show 6,030 students enrolled in medicine in 2003.

The government originally planned to reach a target of 5,894 by 2005.

A report, by Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, shows the number of medical students is up by 2,281, or 60% since 1997.

Health Secretary John Reid said the increase in number is the result of innovative new methods of teaching aimed at attracting a wide range of students.

'New methods'

These include two-year foundation degrees aimed at those already working in the NHS, and summer schools and road shows encouraging 13-16 year olds to become interested in studying medicine.

In addition four medical schools and four centres of medical education have opened in England from 2000.

Sir Liam said the report shows new teaching methods are "making a career in medicine more popular and increasingly more accessible."

"The report highlights the kinds of initiatives that need to be adopted by more medical schools to ensure they remain in the forefront of international best practice in medical education," he said.

Professor Andrew Garner, Dean of the Manchester Medical School said the number of applications to his course have risen by 24% in the last year.

They are increasing the number of graduates from 330 to 450 by 2009.

He said "we are not lowering standards in an attempt to increased numbers."

"The courses themselves are changing and there are people who see changes as a threat, and might say students aren't as good as they used to be."

"Knowledge levels are a prerequisite, but we make sure students are able to practice as a GP in the 21st Century."

'Dumbing down'

Chairman of the British Medical Association's Medical Students Committee, Leigh Bissett said "unless the problem of medical student debt is tackled, the NHS will find it hard to recruit and retain doctors from working class families."

He also warned that not all graduates become doctors and more needs to be done to encourage careers in the NHS.

"Many final year students are already considering leaving medicine in favour of more lucrative jobs, and when top-up fees are introduced the temptation will be even greater."

The BMA has previously criticised a proposed new training scheme, saying it would 'dumb down' education to meet staffing targets.

A joint statement released by the BMA's junior doctors committee and the trainees committee of the Academy of Medical Careers said the Government's new medical careers scheme could cause the standards of UK consultants to drop.

It said plans to shorten the length of time doctors have to train before being consultants were being rushed through without regard to patient safety.

Med students in serious debt
03 Mar 04  |  Wales
Warning over surgeons' training
20 Feb 04  |  Health

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