Universities to fast-track new doctors
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.”