Unhappy doctors

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7351.1452 (Published 15 June 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1452

Medical education must reassert its claim to academic high ground

  1. Roger Jones (roger.jones@kcl.ac.uk), Wolfson professor of general practice
  1. Guy's, King's and St Thomas's School of Medicine, London SE11 6SP
  2. Mixenden Stones Surgery, Halifax HX2 8RQ
  3. School of Health Care Practice, Anglia Polytechnic University, Chelmsford CM1 1LL
  4. International Centre for Health and Society, University College London, London WC1E 6BT
  5. St George's Hospital, London SW17 0QT
  6. Department of Surgery, University College London, London W1W 7EJ

    EDITOR—Ham and Alberti place the current crisis in medicine in context.1 Let us hope that the public, the profession, and the government can rise to the challenges that they laid down. They showed remarkable restraint in describing the politicisation of the NHS, but I was surprised that they did not emphasise the crucial importance of medical education and the role of our medical schools in understanding what is going wrong with medicine.

    The General Medical Council has repeatedly called for radical reforms of the curriculums in undergraduate medicine, some of which have now been implemented. But whether our medical schools can instil the personal attributes and professional attitudes that are necessary for graduating students to engage with the complex sociopolitical agenda described by Ham and Alberti is less clear. The teaching and assessment of attitudes is a real challenge, but if we continue to rely on role modelling then medical education will remain hopelessly out of step with the changes taking place in society and the profession. Medical schools have a crucial role in preparing their students for participation in the new compact described by Ham and Alberti.

    In an attempt to bolster a reduced and demoralised medical workforce in the United Kingdom new medical schools are being opened and student numbers increased in the old ones. At the same time higher education funding is being squeezed as never before. Many established medical schools are reeling from the financial consequences of the 2001 research assessment exercise. Staffing cuts are inevitable, and many will probably fall on clinical academics, who give most to undergraduate education; those who work for research deans obsessed by their ratings in the research assessment exercise, however, will probably be spared. …

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