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Friday, 16 June, 2000, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Medicine places for poor pupils
student doctors
The government wants to encourage more students to become doctors
A scheme to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds to become doctors is being launched.

Fifty places to study medicine at King's College London are to be created specifically for talented pupils who would not normally achieve the top grades needed to be accepted.

The Access to Medicine scheme, designed to widen the social and ethnic mix of medical students, was announced by the government on Friday.

It also announced that two new medical schools will be set up to meet a national need for more doctors.

One will be based at the University of East Anglia's Norwich campus. The second will be run jointly by Exeter and Plymouth universities, and will be called the Peninsula Medical School.


King's College Hospital
A work observation and experience scheme will be held at King's College Hospital

King's College London includes the medical and dental schools of Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Hospitals, which have been merged to form the Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine.

Under its scheme, students will be selected for their potential, rather than their academic grades.

The medical school usually demands that students achieve at least an A and two B grades at A-level.

The college will aim to identify promising students early - from Year 9 when they are 13 - and work with them, their parents and teachers to further their interest in medicine.

"Science in action" sessions will be held on campus, and the medical school will also offer placements to teachers from targeted schools.

Work observation and experience schemes will also take place, at Guy's, St Thomas', Lewisham and King's College hospitals.

Model for other schemes

Students accepted under the scheme will follow a six-year rather than five-year course, to allow for extra foundation work and a slower pace in the first three years.

The course will merge with the existing traditional medicine course for the final three years, but students on the scheme will receive extra support throughout.

Ten students per year will be admitted per year from August 2001, rising to 50 per year from 2006.

Elitism row

The launch of the scheme follows recent accusations of elitism made against some medical schools and other universities.

The row was sparked by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who attacked Oxford University's Magdalen College for not offering Tyneside comprehensive pupil Laura Spence a place to study medicine.

Professor Susan Standring, sub dean of admissions (medicine) at King's College London, said secondary schools and further education colleges in the London boroughs of Southwark, Lewisham and Lambeth would be targeted for the scheme.

She hoped it would serve as a model for similar schemes for other subjects at King's, as well as at other institutions around the country.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is funding the extra places at King's, as well as the places and part of the capital costs at the two new medical schools.

Prof Standring said King's hoped to give students on the Access to Medicine scheme extra financial helpby establishing bursaries for them.

'Ground-breaking'

The new medical school at the University of East Anglia will take 110 students a year from 2002.

The Peninsula Medical School, which will be based over three sites in Exeter, Plymouth and Truro, will admit 127 students a year from 2002.

The government wants to increase the number of medical places by more than 1,000 each year.

In the recent poll of the public's priorities for the NHS, people said they wanted the doctor and nurse workforce to be expanded.

Sir Brian Fender, chief executive of HEFCE, said: "These are ground-breaking developments in medical education, which help to meet the national need for more trained doctors.

"The King's College programme will open doors to sections of the population who have previously been under-represented in medical education, and is an excellent example of a university working closely with the local community to expand opportunities."

Nick Jenkins, chairman of the British Medical Association's medical students committee, said the scheme was a "positive short term measure to address the inequalities in medical school intake".

But he added: "It must not be seen as a substitute for proper funding so that students from all backgrounds can compete for medical places on an equal footing."

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See also:

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