Debts hinder med school entry

Lifting fees cap may increase medics' qualification debt to £57,000.

A rising tide of medical student debt is threatening the government's access-to-medicine schemes for lower income groups, the BMA claims.

The debt projections on qualification of £37,000, rising to £57,000 if the tuition fees cap is lifted in 2010, will put lower-income students off entering medicine, the association says.

Ian Noble, a pre-final year student at Sheffield and chairman of the BMA's medical students committee, says he believes fear of debt is 'the most significant reason' low-income students are put off medicine.

Just 13 per cent of medical students come from skilled manual, semi-skilled and unskilled family backgrounds, compared with almost 30 per cent for degree courses overall.

Medical students take 16 years to pay back their debts, but Mr Noble said the struggle for jobs is threatening this.

'Job security has almost disappeared in medicine. Access to hospital speciality training is more difficult and it's a concern if young GPs can't get partnerships and stay on relatively decreasing salaries while their debt increases,' he said.

The government plans to commission an independent review of student funding arrangements in 2009.

prisca.middlemiss@haymarket.com

BMA report

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