Different pathways into the modern medical profession

With the Foundation Programme set to be oversubscribed due to increased demand, Sarah Morrison looks at what the future holds

James Norman, 29, gained an undergraduate degree, a Masters, and then worked in the City before deciding to become a doctor. Yet as medical graduates face the possibility of unemployment for the first time in the NHS training scheme's history, it seems that there is no longer only one preferred pathway into the medical profession.

The British Medical Association (BMA) anticipates that the number of applications for this year's Foundation Programme, the two-year paid trainee placement that graduate medical students take to become registered doctors in the UK, will be oversubscribed owing to increased demand from applicants outside the country.

While a BMA spokesman said postgraduate training was in "flux", he added that they are working on a "contingency plan" with the Government to ensure every medical graduate gets a place on the programme. Dr Stuart Carney, the deputy national director for the UK Foundation Programme Office, said graduate medical students must now pay more attention to their application than ever. "Hopefully, every graduate will get a post this year, but the bottom line is that the current application for the Foundation Programme is going to be very competitive," he said.

The majority of students enter the workplace-based training from a five- or six-year undergraduate medical degree. However, in recent years, there has been an increased number of students entering from one of the UK's 16 accelerated graduate-entry courses.

Norman studied microbiology at the University of Edinburgh and immunology at Imperial College London (ICL), because it was not until his mid-twenties that he realised he wanted to enter medicine. Yet, with more than 10 per cent of all pre-clinical medical students in 2008/09 entering medicine through a four-year graduate-entry course, it seems that he was not alone in his indecision.

"I found my first degrees fascinating, but it was hard to see whether what I was doing was helping people," said Norman, who is now on a Foundation Programme after finishing his four-year medical degree at the University of Nottingham in July.

"I have always been good at cramming for exams... but going through Edinburgh and Imperial meant that I was more emotionally mature starting my medical degree."

In fact, around half of the 31 UK medical schools now run fast-track courses for graduate applicants, with the University of Warwick and Swansea University choosing to offer medical degrees only for graduate students. Top of the range include universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, ICL, Nottingham and the University of Edinburgh, but all have varying admission policies for graduates.

Universities such as Oxford and ICL dictate that the student's first degree must be in a relevant subject, such as biological sciences, while Cambridge accepts an upper second-class degree in any subject. Spaces on courses can also vary, with Oxford hosting just 20 positions while Nottingham has 93.

While graduate-entry students save a year or two off the standard course, all students finish with the same qualification after completion. To continue into paid training, students must apply for one of the generic placements – which form the bridge between medical school and specialist or general practice training – and were previously guaranteed to all.

Situated in more than 20 geographical regions around the UK, the foundation years occur in clinical environments and they are typically made up of six four-month placements in a range of specialities.

All graduates rate their regions in preference, and apply either for a standard placement or for an academic one, which can include four months of academic training.

Will Muirhead, 26, is in the first year of his Nottingham-based programme and describes his placement as "a way of formalising the skills and knowledge acquired during the first two years of medical practice – which is stressful and a bit scary at times, but ultimately really rewarding".

Some students, such as 23-year-old University of Edinburgh student Sarah Mann (not her real name), who is about to apply for her Foundation Programme, take "intercalated" undergraduate degrees, where they take a year out of their medical programme to qualify in another scientific degree, not only to broaden their knowledge but also to add valuable points to their applications.

"I hope that I get a job, and haven't really considered that I wouldn't," said Mann, who is in her sixth year at the University of Edinburgh, after studying for a reproductive biology BSc in her third year.

"My first choice for a placement is in Severn, but I don't really mind where I go. In a way, I know that it will be fine wherever. You might not do exactly what you want, but it might just send you down a different path altogether."

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits