2022 the toughest year ‘in living memory’ to get into a UK medical school | Medicine

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Medical school heads say it is the toughest year “in living memory” for A-level students to secure a place to study medicine, with several thousand high-achieving applicants left without places. Unless the government increases the number of medical trainee places now, they say, there will be a ‘disaster’ in the NHS 10 years from now.

Medicine has long been one of the most difficult subjects for A-level students to secure a place, but this year the competition has been tougher than ever as many places are already awarded to students who have been encouraged or paid to differ during the last pandemic disruption. year, and thanks to a demographic surge in the number of 18-year-olds.

Ucas, the admissions service, says less than 16% of applications to study medicine and dentistry resulted in an offer this year, down from 20.4% in 2021.

Andrew Hargreaves, co-founder of Data HE, a consultancy advising universities on admissions, and former director of Ucas, told the Guardian: “The largest pool of unplaced applicants is in medicine. I hear we have several thousand medical applicants with no firm choice.

Medical schools say they were very cautious about offers this year after the government wrote to them before Christmas saying the institutions would have to pay an annual bill of more than £30,000 for each additional student on a traineeship clinic if they exceeded their pre-Covid allocation of location numbers.

Sir Andrew Goddard, consultant in gastroenterology and president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), said: ‘To me this is obvious and quite frightening. If we don’t invest in training more doctors now, in 10 years the NHS will face disaster.

The RCP has called for an additional 7,500 medical school places to be funded each year in the UK at an annual cost of £1.85billion, but Goddard says the Treasury is blocking expansion. The Council of Medical Schools has echoed those demands, though it says the country could manage with 5,000 more students a year and 13 new medical schools if it continues to fill the gaps with foreign doctors.

He warns the NHS is being hit by a ‘perfect storm’, with understaffing alongside high demand for services, including an unprecedented backlog of patients due to the pandemic and an aging population with multiple conditions requiring treatment.

Research by the RCP and its counterparts in Scotland last year found that just under half of all medical consultant posts remained vacant in the UK – the highest figure for nearly a decade .

Professor John Alcolado, Executive Dean of the University of Chester Medical School, which opens this autumn, said: “With many universities sitting on deferred students, this year will be the toughest year for get into medical school within living memory.”

Chester only accepts international students due to the government cap on the number of medical students in the UK. Alcolado would like to be able to recruit local people, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, to train doctors who could practice locally once they graduate. However, he says that is currently not possible.

“We are told there is no funding for you to train UK students, but you can take students from other countries who can afford to pay for their clinical training placement as well as their tuition fees” , did he declare.

“The NHS has tended to rely on recruiting doctors from countries who trained people when they could not afford it. It will not be a sustainable model to cover all our needs in the future, and it is also parasitic.

Kat Ferguson (not her real surname), an NHS consultant in Wales whose daughter applied to study medicine, said: ‘A friend of hers had the best GCSE results of the year and she was predicted the best A-level grades and she didn’t get a single offer of drugs.

Her daughter is ‘one of the lucky ones’ because she got an offer but is worried about what will happen if she doesn’t get the straight A grades she needs in the first high-stakes exams that she ever passed – having missed the GCSEs during the pandemic.

“These students are some of the brightest in their year and it’s hard for them to see their friends getting lots of offers for other subjects,” Ferguson said.

“As a mum who also works in the NHS, I feel like there is a real disconnect in the system. Universities have to turn away good candidates, but we know there are thousands of vacancies for doctors.

Professor Ian Fussell, associate dean for education at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “We knew it would be very competitive this year and it has been.” Many of Exeter’s places for this year are already taken as last summer the university offered medical students £10,000 and a year’s free accommodation to be postponed until 2022, after the number of successful applicants with the course as their first choice increased from 20% to 60%.

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The vice-chancellors say privately that they do not rule out the government making a last-minute U-turn this summer and allocating additional numbers if more students than expected meet the requirements of their offer, as has been reported. is being produced in 2021 and 2020, but at best they say it would be hundreds more spots spread across the country, not thousands.

Fussell urges candidates who don’t have offers to “stay positive.” Some may still be lucky because other applicants miss grades, but he adds: ‘Most doctors would look back and say, ‘Don’t rush. Take a gap year. It gives you a chance to gain some life experience and think about the future. It demonstrates your commitment and builds your story. »

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Each year we work with universities to ensure full capacity on essential courses like medicine and dentistry and that these figures reflect workforce needs. of England to help protect NHS services.”

They added that caps were in place in medicine ‘to ensure students receive a high standard of education’ and to ensure there was sufficient capacity for training placements in local areas.

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