Uni­ver­si­ties to fast-track new doc­tors

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Richard Adams Ed­u­ca­tion edi­tor

Med­i­cal schools have been urged to fast-track fi­nal-year med­i­cal stu­dents, waiv­ing re­quire­ments for clin­i­cal ex­ams and us­ing al­ter­na­tive as­sess­ments to en­able them to be quickly reg­is­tered as doc­tors in or­der to help tackle the coro­n­avirus out­break.

They and univer­sity de­part­ments also face the prospect of re­leas­ing staff to help the NHS cope with the cri­sis.

The Med­i­cal Schools Coun­cil has ad­vised the UK’s 42 med­i­cal schools they should pri­ori­tise qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal-year stu­dents even if they have missed clin­i­cal ex­ams so they can be pro­vi­sion­ally reg­is­tered by the Gen­eral Med­i­cal Coun­cil. “It is im­por­tant med­i­cal schools do not de­lay qual­i­fi­ca­tion and so pre­vent new doc­tors join­ing the work­force in the sum­mer,” the let­ter from the MSC says.

“We sug­gest that fi­nals are sim­pli­fied as far as pos­si­ble, con­sis­tent with test­ing nec­es­sary learn­ing ob­jec­tives. We sug­gest pa­tients are not used in fi­nal clin­i­cal ex­ams. Ul­ti­mately it may not be pos­si­ble to de­liver any mean­ing­ful for­mal clin­i­cal ex­ams, in which case the med­i­cal school should re­view the al­ter­na­tive meth­ods of as­sess­ment avail­able to them (pre­vi­ous exam re­sults, place­ment grades etc).”

Stu­dents at Cam­bridge were told last week that clin­i­cal teach­ing would end and that the univer­sity had sought ap­proval from the GMC to can­cel clin­i­cal ex­ams, which would have tied up more than 200 hospi­tal doc­tors and GPs for more than two weeks.

“Clin­i­cal en­vi­ron­ments could be an un­nec­es­sary source of virus trans­mis­sion, they may be putting their pa­tients and them­selves at greater risk, and there may be too few staff avail­able to de­liver for­mal clin­i­cal teach­ing, ei­ther through pres­sure of work or ill­ness,” stu­dents were told in an email from Prof Pa­trick Maxwell, the head of clin­i­cal medicine.

Prof Louise Richard­son, vice-chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, told staff in an email: “The med­i­cal sci­ence divi­sion is can­celling all clin­i­cal teach­ing un­til fur­ther no­tice in or­der to re­lease clin­i­cal teach­ers to the wards.”

Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don has said it will re­lease all clin­i­cal aca­demics from their univer­sity roles if they want to help the NHS. “Many of our clin­i­cal aca­demics may shortly be asked to sup­port clin­i­cal ser­vices as the NHS faces in­creased pres­sure dur­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break. We have taken the de­ci­sion to re­lease col­leagues from their UCL re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to en­able them to take a de­ci­sion on this,” said Prof David Lo­mas, the univer­sity’s vice-provost for health.

The MSC said stu­dents should be en­abled to work in the NHS dur­ing the cri­sis, as call han­dlers for the 111 tele­phone ser­vice or by tak­ing over other non-crit­i­cal roles to re­lieve staff.

“It must be their own de­ci­sion, they should not be al­lowed to work be­yond their com­pe­ten­cies, they should be given full nec­es­sary per­sonal pro­tec­tion and full in­struc­tion in its use, and they should be fully su­per­vised with clear gov­er­nance ar­range­ments,” the let­ter states.

“Op­por­tu­ni­ties may be avail­able for post-fi­nals med­i­cal stu­dents to as­sist in clin­i­cal ser­vices other than those deal­ing di­rectly with pa­tients with coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion. For ex­am­ple, help­ing in frac­ture clin­ics that are re­pur­posed to deal with pa­tients with mi­nor in­juries away from the emer­gency depart­ment en­vi­ron­ment.”

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