By Ellie Broughton
BMA leaders have warned rapidly rising levels of debt after leaving medical school will deter young people from pursuing a career in medicine and could have a 'potentially catastrophic' effect on patient care in the NHS.
With the sudden increase in tuition fees, graduates are now paying £9,000 for year-one of the four-year graduate entry medicine course instead of £3,375, a price jump of 166%, without being given access to a loan.
This leaves a potential debt after completing their courses of £36,000 - a level that BMA leaders claim will deter the brightest candidates from studying medicine.
Dr Paul Darragh, chair of the BMA's Council in Northern Ireland said debt levels will become a real concern for medical students.
'The starting salary of a junior doctor is just over £22,500, bringing young doctors starting out their careers above the proposed repayment threshold.'
‘Having to put a significant proportion of this income toward massive loan repayments will only exacerbate the worry that debt brings,' he said.
Neil Cunningham, chairman of the BMA's medical student committee in Northern Ireland said: 'The BMA is concerned that the additional debt incurred due to repayment of higher tuition fees will deter talented individuals from pursuing a career in medicine.'
‘This can only have a detrimental, potentially catastrophic effect, on future health service delivery and patient care.'
The rise in tuition fees will have a particularly severe impact on graduate-entry students, who are not eligible for student loans.
Rebecca McKnight, a campaigner with Save Graduate Entry Medicine, said bursaries for graduate-entry students were currently under review.
'If the Government go along with this plan of action then graduate medical programmes may either close down all together, or end up being for the rich only.'