Popular crime dramas and macabre autopsy exhibitions have been blamed for a severe shortage of bodies being donated to Britain's medical schools, hitting training courses for doctors and surgeons.

The slump is being blamed on dramas such as Waking the Dead and Silent Witness, and the controversial live autopsy and skinned-corpse exhibitions by German artist Gunther von Hagens. A touring exhibition, Bodies Revealed, has also been criticised.

Medical schools rely heavily on the public bequeathing their bodies for anatomy classes, but the number donated each year has fallen so sharply there is now an annual "shortfall" of 400 cadavers compared with a surplus a decade ago. Demand has jumped steeply because nine new medical schools have opened and the number of students has soared. Jeremy Metters, HM Inspector of Anatomy, said this meant that at least 1,000 bodies a year were now needed.

This week, at its annual conference, the student wing of the British Medical Association will call for a national campaign to urge the public to donate their bodies after death.

Dr Metters said the scandals at Bristol Royal Infirmary and Alder Hey General Hospital had seriously damaged public confidence.