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Applicants for medicine down 4% on previous year

Applications to study medicine and dentistry in 2017 have dropped by 4% compared to the previous year, with the BMA warning the high profile pressures in the NHS are making medicine ‘a less desirable career choice’.

UCAS figures for course applications up to 15 January show there were 83,540 applicants this year, a drop of 3,110 applications on 2016, despite applications from 18 year olds and disadvantaged groups rising.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged, at the Conservative Party Conference 2016 that they would make the ‘UK self-sufficient in doctors’ by 2025, and intended to increase med school places by 1,500 in 2018.

Applications to medicine flat-lined last year in the middle of the Government’s dispute with junior doctors, and only rose by 2% in the year before – medical leaders warned of this year’s drop at the earlier November deadline when only 10% of applications were made.

Overall, applications to higher education were down 5% among UK students, and 7% in EU students.

A UCAS report says the decline across the country was driven by a drop in applicants form the EU and older applicants – a 23% decrease in those 25 and older.

The largest single drop was in applications to study nursing, which fell 23% with just 33,810 applicants in 2017 – the first year since the government removed training bursaries.

Harrison Carter, BMA medical students committee co-chair, said: ‘It’s likely that the Government’s handling of the junior doctor contract negotiations, and the continuing financial pressures on the NHS, are deterring many from pursuing medical careers.’

‘At a time when our health service is completely overstretched and facing huge staff shortages, it is vital that the government addresses the underlying issues that are affecting the NHS’ ability to recruit and retain staff.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS chief executive said: ‘Despite the overall decrease, it is encouraging that the number of 18 year old applicants remains high, and that application rates for disadvantaged groups continue to rise.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said of the UCAS figures: ‘Student contributions to university costs have changed on three previous occasions, and every time there has been an immediate dip in application rates followed by a steady rise — we are confident nursing courses will follow a similar trend and are certain we will have all the student nurses the NHS needs by September.’

  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Applicants for Medicine and Dentistry 96270 98910 88550 86650 83540
Percentage change on previous year 11% 14% 2% 0% -4%

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