Number of Scottish students studying medicine falls as lack of GPs

The number of Scottish-domiciled medical students has dropped by 12 per cent since 2000. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The number of Scottish-domiciled medical students has dropped by 12 per cent since 2000. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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The number of Scottish-domiciled medical students has gone down by 12 per cent since 2000 as the country reels from a chronic shortage of GPs.

Figures obtained by The Scotsman show that in 1999-2000 the percentage of Scots students studying clinical medicine in the country was 63 per cent – this has now dropped to 51 per cent despite the overall numbers of medical students increasing significantly.

Research has shown that medical students on the whole choose to practise in their country of origin once they graduate but a higher proportion of university places are being taken by would-be doctors from England, the EU and the rest of the world.

This means homegrown students are losing out on places when there is a projected deficit of 828 GPs needed in Scotland by 2021. As of last year 2,275 out of 4,455 medical students are Scottish.

Dr Miles Mack, chair of the RCGP (Scotland), and Dr Alan McDevitt of the BMA have both spoken about the need to widen access to medical schools and the importance of recruiting GPs who can identify strongly with the communities in which they practise.

The Scottish Government has responded by creating the country’s first graduate-level medicine course in a bid to adress the ongoing GP recruitment crisis in rural areas.

The four-year course will be open to existing graduates from any discipline with an interest in pursuing a degree in medicine and will have 40 places available.

Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “If the percentage of Scots students studying medicine had been maintained at the level of 1999-2000, hundreds more Scots medics would be being trained now which would help address the recruitment crisis in general practice and other specialities.

“Increasing the opportunities for young Scots to study medicine at university here is a key part of our Save our Surgeries campaign and we will continue to put pressure on Scottish ministers.”

Lekaa Rambabu, of BMA Scotland’s medical students committee, said: “Scotland’s foundation programme has most recently been oversubscribed, meaning that more new medical graduates applied to take their first training post in Scotland than there were places available.

“The number of foundation programme places are determined on a UK-wide basis and a change to the number of places in Scotland’s medical schools for Scottish and EU domiciled students would not of itself alter the number of available foundation places.

“Doctors need to complete a foundation year before the GMC allows them to become fully registered and able to practise independently, so it is essential that the number of medical school places aligns with available foundation posts.”