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Medical graduates left with huge debts

Doctors warn: only the rich will be able to study medicine

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 01 July 2009

A career in medicine will become the preserve of the rich, the British Medical Association has warned.

The BMA polled more than 2,000 medical students and found that those starting their studies now face debts of nearly £40,000 by the time they graduate.

The survey of students in England and Northern Ireland, found that those who started before the introduction of the charges in 2006 were graduating with debts of £19,000, but those who started after this date face debts of £37,000 on average.

Student representatives at the BMA warn that a career in medicine could be seen as prohibitive for those from poorer backgrounds.

"Medical education is becoming increasingly expensive, edging ever close to the total exclusion of those without the access to the cash with which to fund themselves. Medical education should be about your potential to become a great doctor, not you ability to pay," said Tim Crocker-Buque, chairman of the BMA's medical students committee.

And he urged the government not to raise the £3,225 yearly cap on tuition fees, saying it could have a "crushing" effect on students.

A review into the fees will be carried out later this year with some predicting universities will be allowed to set their own charges potentially leading to prices of up to £20,000 a year.

The BMA says the government should also help charities to support young people from low income families to pursue medical careers.

Tom Foley, BMA Medical Student lead on student finance, explained: "Applications from low income families are at pathetically poor levels. Just 4% of clinical students come from the lowest two socio-economic groups and all students are now relying on £3,000 of yearly handouts from their parents – a terrible burden on working families at a time of recession."

However, the government has described its system as fair, stating that families earning less than £25,000 a year are eligible for a grant to cover the cost of tuition fees.

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