A London university is going to be offering medical course places via ‘clearing’ in a first for any medical school, which junior doctor leaders say is a ‘sad indictment’ of the NHS.
St George’s, University of London has this year opened up its five-year medical degree undergraduate course to the process, typically used to fill places that would otherwise go unfilled.
The Medical Schools Council told Pulse that it was a first among UK medical schools.
It comes as the total number of UK students applying for places at medical school fell last year for the second year running, dropping by 13.5% on two years previously, with this blamed on ‘negative publicity’ regarding seven-day NHS political targets and worsening working condition for doctors.
But a spokesperson for the university told Pulse that it was ‘definitely not because of falling applications’, but rather related to the ‘unpredicability’ of A-level grades and would offer the ‘fairest’ opportunity to ‘outstanding’ students.
A spokesperson said: ‘St George’s, University of London has a range of courses going into Clearing this year and has retained a limited number of places on its Medicine (MBBS 5 year) undergraduate course for high quality students, who meet our requirements, for the first time.
‘We believe that going into Clearing is the fairest way for us to get outstanding students given the unpredictability of A level grades and the strict intake quotas imposed on the MBBS programme. Some students will have exceeded their grade expectations and will now be able to study Medicine, others will be unable to meet their conditional offer.’
Professor Jenny Higham, Principal of St George’s, University of London, said: ‘This is a great opportunity for students to study at the only UK university to share a campus with a teaching hospital, to take up a place in the current cycle, and avoid delaying their chosen career.’
Last year GP academic leaders said that the decline in medical school applications was ‘too large to be due to chance’, and that some students were being put off by publicity around cuts in NHS funding, increasing workloads and the expectation of seven-day working – as well as changes to GPs’ and consultants’ contracts.
Since then, the Government has imposed a new contract on junior doctors despite their fierce opposition and reports of declining morale.
Dr Johann Malawana, former chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee and leader of the profession’s fight against the Government’s imposition, told Pulse: ‘I cannot remember places at medical school being offered through clearing. It is a sad indictment on how poorly this Government has managed the NHS. Careers in medicine traditionally attract many times the number of applicants per place, yet St George’s has now ended up having to offer places through clearing.
‘It is time the Government took the problems caused by poorly evidenced policies seriously and listened to the frontline staff. This country is already in the midst of a crisis in the NHS and this Government is compounding previous disastrous policies with poor handling of this crisis.’
A spokesperson for the Medical Schools Council said: ‘The possibility of application through clearing for medical degree programmes offers an exciting opportunity, particularly for highly qualified students who perhaps just failed to obtain their predicted A*s and missed out on places at their firm and insurance offers.’