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Aspiring GPs from state schools face shrinking odds

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: GPs of the future will have to beat the odds if they are applying from state schools, figures obtained by Pulse reveal.

There is a growing divide in the chances of state school applicants being accepted onto medical courses compared with their privately educated counterparts.

In 2004, 57% of privately educated applicants were accepted onto courses – only a little higher than the 49% of state school applicants.

But by 2008, the proportion of privately educated applicants accepted onto courses had leaped to 67%, while the proportion of state school applicants had fallen to 41%.

The figures suggest measures to combat elitism have been far more successful at persuading people at state schools to apply for medicine than they have been at driving up the proportion who will actually study to become doctors.

They follow publication of a major Government report suggesting leading professions, including medicine, are increasingly a ‘closed shop', prompting a BMA investigation into measures to improve access to the profession.

GPs said medical school applicants were increasingly expected to demonstrate supporting activities that could stack the odds in favour of the privately educated.

Over the past five years, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of applicants for medicine from state schools, but the number accepted onto courses has risen far more slowly.

Medical students are three times as likely to have gone to a private school as the student population as a whole, statistics from the Universities and Colleges Admission Service reveal.

The figures chime with those from the Government's Panel on Fair Access to the Professions report, which found just 4% of medical students come from the lowest two socioeconomic groups.

It said the average GP of the future would be today living in a family better off than five out of six families in the UK.

Alan Milburn MP, who chaired the panel, said: ‘We need a new recognition that a closed shop mentality means too many people from middle- income and low-income families encounter doors that are shut to their talents.'

Dr Duleepa Koralage, a GP in Banbury, Oxfordshire, who went to a state school, said:

‘Going into medical school these days, you need to have additional features on your CV. Do students have the opportunity to develop more outside interests at private school?'

Louise McMenemy, a medical student in London and the BMA's student lead on widening participation, said the key factor was whether an applicant's parents were educated professionals.

‘Students whose parents aren't professionals will find it harder – they may not have the same connections, parents with friends who are doctors, places for work experience and so on.'

BMA group to consider how to open up the profession Louise McMenemy How odds favour privately educated How odds favour privately educated

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