Intended for healthcare professionals


BMA negotiator calls for more male medical students

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 30 March 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:754
  1. Wendy Moore
  1. London

    A member of the BMA's general practitioners' negotiating committee has said that medical schools should discriminate in favour of male applicants in response to growing concerns about doctor shortages.

    Dr Peter Holden, a negotiator on the committee, said there was a “sound case” for considering biasing entry towards young men applying to medical schools. Currently 58% of applicants and 59% of successful entrants to medical school are women, according to figures for 2001 from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

    Dr Holden argued that because women doctors were more likely to take career breaks or work part time, the current imbalance threatens to worsen the doctor shortage. “It is time to be politically incorrect,” he said. “You do not get 35-40 years' service from the females. Given that you cannot increase the capacity of the medical schools much more, there is a sound case for looking at biasing the entry without reducing the quality.”

    Professor Reg Jordan, deputy dean of medicine at Newcastle University's medical school, said the rise in female students began seven or eight years ago, when fairer selection procedures were introduced to eliminate discrimination against female applicants.

    He agreed there was concern at the smaller proportion of male students, which was due partly to boys doing less well at GCSEs and A levels. But he said that to positively discriminate in favour of boys would mean accepting weaker male students at the expense of better female candidates.

    Dr Holden was responding to a report published this week by the King's Fund think tank that blames staff shortages as a major cause of low morale among doctors and other NHS workers. He said “constant change and constant criticism” were also demotivating doctors.

    The report, Counting the Smiles, says that chronic staff shortages and a perception of being undervalued are the two main factors currently demoralising NHS staff.

    Based on interviews with focus groups of NHS staff, including doctors, the research also blames poor morale on increased workloads, inadequate resources, and political interference, which sometimes means government targets taking precedence over local priorities.

    Counting the Smiles is free from the King's Fund bookshop, 11-13 Cavendish Square, London W1G0AN. (tel 020 7307 2400)

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