The UK’s new medical schools want to accept domestic students and feel it will be “relatively easy” to do so, but have warned of a “wasted opportunity” if the Westminster government does not lift the cap on places.
A new school recently opened at London’s Brunel University will only accommodate students from overseas, a situation described by shadow health secretary Wes Streeting as “ridiculous” given staff shortages in the National Health Service.
The Labor Party has promised to increase the number of trainees if it wins power at the next general election, while the current Conservative administration has reintroduced a cap of 7,500 students on medical degrees, relaxed during the outbreak.
Experts have warned that funding for medical professionals is too expensive and a lack of quality allocation will make delivery difficult. But the deans of the new schools said. Times Higher Education that it can be done.
Naomi Lowe Beer, dean of Brunel’s medical school, said that although some of the 105 students – from 36 different countries – who made up the first cohort stayed in the UK, it was “very important” to get more places. Availability for UK students due to “urgent need” for more doctors.
“We have established this medical school keeping in mind the students of the United Kingdom. We are delighted with the level of international students we have, but we wish they had UK students on their side. We are waiting for that to happen,” she said.
Prof Low-Beer added that if training places were to be expanded across the county, different approaches would be needed, but it would not be a problem for Brunel to accept local students, which would be done by adjusting the balance. Instead of increasing the total number of students of the group.
The University of Surrey will open a new medical school in 2024, and will also offer international graduates, a small number of scholarships for UK students.
Juliet Wright, founding dean of medicine at Surrey, said: “We’ve had really positive applications for those small number of places, so it certainly shows there’s an appetite.”
When asked how easy it would be to open more locations, he said, “We need to see the exact numbers, but it will be relatively easy.”
“The first part of our course is university-based, so we can accommodate large numbers of students relatively easily, mostly in simulations or teaching groups.
“Then, I think, there’s a lot of opportunity to find places where we haven’t been before. We can work with other professions, use technology and remote consultations, think about the myriad clinical possibilities in hospitals, private healthcare, home visits, virtual wards – you can be really creative.
Professor Wright warned that such a change would be a “wasted opportunity” if it did not address institutions that could disrupt entrenched practices, especially when new schools were easier to accommodate large numbers of students.
“There are certainly a lot of local students who want to study medicine. I think there is a lot of opportunity for the country and the NHS to take on talented graduates,” she said.
A spokesman for the University of Chester, which plans to open another medical school in 2024, said: “There has certainly been a lot of interest from international and UK applicants, and we are very hopeful that we will be able to take both categories on the day of commencement.” He said.