Open Eye: Part-time doctors may need patience

The Open University has responded to the Government call for bids to provide 1,000 additional undergraduate places in medicine, with a proposal for an internationally unique, part-time Stage One Foundation Course for Medicine.

The course will provide graduate entrants of any discipline with the equivalent of the first two years of the full-time medical undergraduate curriculum. Successful students will then enter Years three to five of medical school to complete their undergraduate training.

Throughout the last year the OU has worked in collaboration with several medical schools to define and shape this course. It will integrate the three key themes of the General Medical Council's report Tomorrow's Doctors: life sciences, human sciences and professional skills.

Basic clinical skills, such as early patient contact and communication skills, will be taught by a combination of residential schools and regular small group attachment to general practice and hospitals.

Students on the course will, in normal OU fashion, be geographically distributed.

The Stage One course is an integral part of two other bids. In an equal partnership, the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth have, with the OU, proposed the formation of a radical new community-wide distributed medical school for the South West Peninsula - the Peninsula Medical School.

The OU course is also part of the bid submitted in partnership with the University of Leeds, and the Bradford and Airedale NHS Trusts, to provide an alternative, mature-entry route for an expansion of Leeds Medical School, which would enable students to train within a diverse multi-cultural community.

The proposal is to be able to start the first course in 2002.

The aim is that people whose personal or work commitments prevent them from entering five years of full-time study will be able to consider a career as a doctor for the first time.

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