Annex M: British Medical Association
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors and medical students in the UK. It is a leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. It is an association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
The BMA welcomes the opportunity to comment on this consultation and agrees that paragraph 17 of Schedule 6 to the Universities (Scotland) Act 1966 should be repealed, allowing the University of St Andrews to hold qualifying examinations and award degrees in medicine.
ScotGEM (Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine) students enrolled to their programme of study with the clear expectation that their degrees would be jointly awarded by the University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee. For a number of ScotGEM students, this joint award was an important factor in their decision to apply and had it not been on offer, they may have applied to another institution.
The University of St Andrews is the only academic institution in the UK that is legally barred from awarding primary medical qualifications. Many other institutions are of course unable to offer degrees in medicine because medicine is a controlled subject with strict rules around student intakes, as well as a requirement for GMC accreditation of courses of study. The ongoing legal bar affecting the University of St Andrews therefore serves no modern purpose if indeed legislation was ever an appropriate tool to prevent competition in this area with the University of Dundee. The BMA therefore sees no disadvantage in repealing this section of legislation and believes doing so is the right course of action and a matter of basic fairness to ScotGEM students.
While it is our understanding that the ability of ScotGEM students to qualify as doctors is not at threat as their degree could be awarded solely by the University of Dundee, this is not the degree that ScotGEM students believed they were embarking on and the BMA would regard a Scottish Government decision not to seek to repeal this section of legislation as a breach of faith with these students.
While this consultation is not directly related to plans for a new medical school, it does acknowledge that this is the wider context in which this potential repeal is being considered and repealing this bar would remove one obstacle to a bid from the University of St Andrews. While we offer no comment on the merits of any initial proposals that have been made, the BMA would emphasise the importance that when a decision is made on plans for a new medical school that proposals are judged against the impact on existing medical education, availability of clinical placements and that foundation places would increase also so that posts are made available for all graduates who wish to work in Scotland. In addition, it would be important to consider the implications for workforce planning and retention of students as newly qualified doctors in Scotland. We would welcome the opportunity to comment further on potential criteria against which proposals may be judged at the appropriate time.