Poorer people still minority in medicine

PEOPLE from poorer backgrounds are still underrepresented in medicine, according to a new survey.

Only 11.5 per cent of trainee doctors said they grew up in a household that received income support, compared to almost 79 per cent who did not. Similarly, only 8.3 per cent said they had received free school meals compared to almost 85 per cent who had not.

A further 65 per cent of those who responded said they had a parent or guardian who had completed a university degree while 31.4 per cent didn’t.

The figures emerged in the General Medical Council’s annual National training survey 2013 which asked doctors in postgraduate training for the first time about their socioeconomic background. This year 97.7 per cent of the UK’s 54,055 trainees responded to the survey.

Of those who responded, 39 per cent (15,118) attended a state school while 34 per cent (13,108) attended a private school and almost 24 per cent (9,221) went to a selective state school.

The GMC’s findings echo those recently published by the Higher Education Statistics Authority which found a quarter of first year medical students had a private school education, despite these schools educating just 7 per cent of UK pupils. From 2007/08 to 2011/12 the proportion of medical students who had been privately educated fell by just one percentage point from 26.9 per cent to 25.9 per cent.

Over the same period, the proportion of students of white ethnic background rose from 71.3 per cent to 72.5 per cent, while students of Asian ethnic background fell from 20.6 per cent to 18.9 per cent. The proportion of black ethnic students increased from 2.5 per cent to 2.8 per cent.

The GMC said it had shared the results of its report with the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission as well as with the Selecting for Excellence executive group which was set up by the Medical Schools Council in March 2013. The group’s goal is to widen access to medicine.

GMC chair Professor Sir Peter Rubin said the regulator is working with the Selecting for Excellence executive group “to help make sure a career in medicine is accessible to individuals with the ability and aptitude to be a good doctor whichever part of society they come from.”

Harrison Carter, co-chair of the BMA’s Medical Students Committee said: “We need a coordinated response at school age level designed to encourage under-represented students to apply to medical school.

“We need to especially support schemes that give young people experience of what being a doctor is like. The BMA is already involved in these schemes, but the government needs to provide more support so that students from all backgrounds feel they have the chance to become a doctor.”