Scotland’s first graduate entry medical course aimed at reducing the ongoing GP shortfall has begun at two universities.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said the new four-year ScotGEM programme is an “accessible option” for those considering a career in medicine.
The course for 55 students at both St Andrews and Dundee universities is “one of the components” of Scottish Government plans to recruit 800 more family doctors across the country in the next 10 years. It is open to those who have a degree other than medicine and will focus on producing new GPs and doctors for remote and rural locations. Eligible students will have their tuition fees paid for by the Scottish Government, and can also receive a bursary of £16,000 - £4,000 a year over the duration of the course - provided they commit to working in the NHS after graduation.
Ms Freeman told how Scottish ministers are “taking a number of steps to create the sustainable health and social care workforce needed for the future”, including the commitment to increase the GP workforce.
She added: “ScotGEM is one of the components of these efforts, and I’m absolutely delighted to be in St Andrews today to meet some of the students and staff involved.
“The course gives graduates the opportunity to convert to medicine, regardless of their original degree.”
However, BMA Scotland said they would be “monitoring” the early years of the new programme to ensure it delivers in the way that was intended and fully meets the needs of medical students.
Co-Chair of BMA Scotland’s Medical Students Committee David Clayton, added: “Offering a graduate-entry medical degree in Scotland is a welcome step that can help attract people from a broader range of backgrounds into medicine. However, it is essential that the new course delivers adequate clinical training to students and doesn’t reduce the opportunities offered by existing medical schools.”
The new course is being run by the medical schools at St Andrews and Dundee universities, in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands and NHS Scotland.
Scottish Conservatives Shadow Health Secretary, Miles Briggs, said: “The graduate level medical course is welcome but it has taken this SNP Government many years to introduce despite warning after warning that Scotland is facing a GP recruitment crisis and a shortfall of 856 GPs.”