Intended for healthcare professionals


BMA meeting: Doctors vote to limit number of medical students

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 09 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a748
  1. Andrew Cole
  1. 1Edinburgh

    Delegates at the annual BMA conference voted by a narrow majority to restrict the number of places at medical schools to avoid “overproduction of doctors with limited career opportunities.” They also agreed on a complete ban on opening new medical schools.

    David Sochart, from Manchester and Salford, warned that in the current job climate allowing too many new doctors into the market would risk devaluing the profession and make newly qualified doctors prey to “unscrupulous profiteers.” A glut of doctors would undermine competition and would therefore lower standards and ensure mediocrity, he claimed.

    He said, “Patients and health care should not be treated as mere commodities, and neither should medical students. We must not allow another lost tribe of doctors to be consigned to the wilderness.”

    Grant Ingrams, representing GPs, said that doctors should not be trained if there was no job at the end. He warned that this could spark another “brain drain,” adding: “It is wrong and immoral and a waste of taxpayers’ and students’ money.”

    But Paul Flynn from the consultants committee said that the root problem was a lack of effective workforce planning and warned members against a kneejerk response. “This is what blighted workforce planning. It would be hypocritical if we were to do it ourselves.”

    The BMA’s chairman, Hamish Meldrum, said he sympathised with the sentiments of the motion but asked members to vote on evidence rather than “gut reactions.”

    “We want to see an expansion of [the numbers of] GPs and consultants,” he said, “and for that we need more students.” But the motion was passed by a small majority (58% versus 42%).

    Members also agreed to a motion accepting that some specialties might need to raise the total number of years spent in training to accommodate the demands of the European Working Time Directive.

    Stephen Austin, from the consultants committee, said that the time needed to acquire the necessary competences was likely to increase—especially in procedure based specialties—and that the only sensible solution was to increase the total amount of time in training.

    Members also voted to press for an agreed minimum national level of funding for study leave to overcome the widespread national variation in the amounts that are currently available.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a748