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Six in 10 medical students ‘forced to cut spending on food and heating’ 

Six in 10 medical students ‘forced to cut spending on food and heating’ 

Six in ten UK medical students are being ‘forced to cut spending on essentials’ such as food and heating, a BMA survey has revealed.

The BMA said the student finance system is ‘broken and in urgent need of reform’.

The BMA survey of 1,119 UK medical students, published today, found that 62% of UK medical students report being ‘forced to cut spending on essentials such as food, clothing and heating’.

Almost one in 25 students reported accessing food banks, it said.

The survey also found:

  • Despite the detrimental impact on their studies and wellbeing, over half (54%) of UK medical students say they have to work during term time to pay their bills, feed themselves and keep themselves warm
  • ‘An overwhelming majority’ (73%) of those who are forced to work say this adversely affects their studying
  • Medical students in receipt of an NHS bursary find it comes ‘nowhere close to meeting their needs’, with students reporting that it covers just 30% of their predicted expenditures
  • Students who received free school meals were nearly half as likely to receive financial support from their parents as those who did not (33% vs 61%)

Medical students ‘see their income drop by several thousand pounds in their final two years of study, when they are on clinical placements in the NHS and have less time to work’, the BMA said.

Financial support ‘is also considerably reduced for graduate students’, it added.

The BMA called for the Government in England to reform the means testing process for the NHS bursary and increase the allowance given to eligible students, which it said is ‘disadvantaging the poorest students and jeopardising their future careers in the NHS’. 

It said that medical students in the devolved nations ‘face similar challenges’ and the BMA ‘will be pursuing change with their respective governments’ – with BMA Wales recently succeeding in persuading the Welsh Government to review the NHS bursary.

BMA medical students committee co-chair Omolara Akinawonnu said: ‘The student finance system is broken and in urgent need of reform.

‘Before even entering a depleted and deflated NHS workforce, medical students are working themselves to exhaustion. This is negatively affecting their studies and leaving them questioning their future careers as doctors.’

She added: ‘The NHS bursary in particular is failing students from lower-income backgrounds, forcing them to work long hours on top of their studies and clinical placements in the NHS just to make ends meet. 

‘Medical students, saddled with astronomical student debts, in some cases totalling up to £100,000, are questioning their future in the NHS and whether the financial and emotional struggle will be worth it.’ 

In the first four years of their studies, undergraduate medical students in England are entitled to the same amount of financial support as other students, the BMA said.

However, in their fifth and sixth years, medical students can only access a ‘reduced maintenance loan’ from Student Finance England and the NHS bursary provides eligible full-time undergraduate students with additional support, it added.

It comes as a medical degree apprenticeship scheme has been ‘approved for delivery’ and could start from September next year.

And the Government has said there is ‘no room for flexibility this year’ to increase medical school places.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Patrufini Duffy 23 August, 2022 10:09 pm

When I recently examined at the local medical school, I was shocked at the lack of UK home grown students. Sums up the impending faecal loading of this country. Hats off to the rest of the world, paying extortionate fees and coming here to prop up a colonialist mentality, of others do the work, we don’t have to. I’m afraid, that won’t cut the cake anymore, which is why every sector is tanking with aplomb.