Doctors’ leaders suggest cutting medical school places by 5% in Scotland to save money

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 12 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6472
  1. Bryan Christie
  1. 1Edinburgh

Doctors across Scotland are being asked to identify where money is being wasted in local services to help deliver savings that have the least impact on patient care.

An email address has been set up by the British Medical Association in Scotland ([email protected]) to gather information from doctors of local examples of wasteful spending. The evidence will then be presented to politicians.

The initiative comes as the BMA launched its manifesto for next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, which identifies one potential saving that may prove controversial. It calls on politicians to reduce the number of medical student places in Scotland amid concern that there are too many students for the number of training places available.

Currently 5% of medical students trained in Scotland fail to get a place on a foundation programme and 20% do not get a specialist training post.

“It is a huge waste of Scottish public money training doctors who are never going to work in Scotland,” said Nikki Thompson, deputy chair of the Scottish consultants’ committee. She also said it was wrong to allow students to run up huge debts qualifying to become doctors when there may be no training places for them after graduation.

The BMA has written to the Scottish Government asking for medical student numbers to be reduced. “We have a problem here and we have to do something about it,” said Brian Keighley, Scottish chairman of the BMA. “We are sending out the warning now because who knows what resources will be available in the years to come.”

The manifesto, entitled Priorities for Health, seeks to protect the quality of services in Scotland and promote the contribution that doctors can make in leading the NHS through the difficult years ahead. It recognises that some services may need to be rationed and difficult decisions taken to reconfigure services which may lead to hospital closures.

Dr Keighley called for politicians to enter into an open and honest debate with the public about what the NHS can and cannot deliver. “Our politicians need to recognise the reality of the choices facing NHS Boards and cannot afford to make unrealistic commitments to secure votes,” he said.

The manifesto calls for:

  • a review of the number and range of NHS targets;

  • a reduction in the use of locums to fill service gaps;

  • a pledge on no compulsory redundancies for all NHS staff;

  • a commitment to a consultant and GP delivered health service

  • a root and branch review of Community Health Partnerships;

  • a leadership role for doctors in planning and developing local services;

  • a strategy to improve the diets of infants and young children;

  • the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol.


Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6472


View Abstract

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial