Course revamp aims to keep medical graduates in Wales

Medical student Carmella Catlow was pleased to work with patients

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Medical students will be given more time with patients under a course aimed at getting them to stay in Wales as junior doctors.

They will carry out increased medical work in the community under a revamp of Cardiff University's degree curriculum.

It will produce doctors who want "to work in Wales for the benefit of Welsh patients", said the dean of medicine.

Three hundred student doctors a year graduate from the Cardiff University School of Medicine.

Wales, in common with other parts of the UK, has had difficulty recruiting and retaining doctors.

Education Minister Huw Lewis welcomed the new curriculum and said the focus on patient and community-based learning would equip doctors with the "clinical expertise and heightened patient empathy to deliver a first-rate standard of care".

"It is important that medical education and training programmes provided in Wales keep pace with changes in both professional standards and social expectations," he added.

The changes are said to form the biggest transformation of the school of medicine's education programme since it was founded in 1921.

The undergraduate curriculum has been developed over the past three years with the help of clinicians, academics, students and patients. It is being launched at the university on Thursday.

Patient safety

The new course will see medical students visiting patients in their homes and with NHS community teams.

They will learn about clinical consulting from GP tutors in their surgeries and deal with issues ranging from sexual health and care for the elderly to paediatrics and midwifery.

Dr David Bailey, deputy chair of the BMA's Welsh Council, said trainee doctors should be out in the community earlier

In the final year of their undergraduate degree, while still under supervision, students will join clinical teams and work out-of-hours.

The medical school said this would have benefits for patient safety as well as softening the transition from medical school to foundation school.

The dean, Prof John Bligh, said it was an "important milestone for medical education in Wales and will play a critical role in ensuring the future health of Wales".

"Not only will it encourage students to be independent life-long learners with a strong focus on science within clinical practice, but it will also instil at the heart of their learning a renewed patient consciousness," he said.

"Ultimately, our goal is to modernise teaching with a view to producing world-class clinicians who want to live and work in Wales for the benefit of Welsh patients, and we hope the community-centred learning experience that this curriculum offers will encourage this."

Hands-on experience

Dr David Bailey, deputy chair of the BMA's Welsh Council, said it was essential to get students into the community earlier.

"When I trained I didn't see a patient for two years and we were restricted in contact for a while after that," he said.

"Now they're trying to get medical students out into the community much earlier, seeing patients earlier, obviously not treating them but having patient contact at a very early age... and get involved with how medicine is practised in Wales."

Sarah Morgan, a first year medical student at Cardiff, said the revamped course had already given her hands-on experience.

"Since Christmas we've been in hospitals, once a week, or GPs' surgeries, and we're putting everything we've learned into context and we're looking at cases to see how everything we're learning really applies to day-to-day clinical settings," she said.

Traditionally, students do not meet patients until their third year.

"There's a lot to learn, but I feel it's really valuable and it's a lot easier to learn the science when you have an experience to attach to it," she added.

Ms Morgan told BBC Radio Wales the course has given her so much experience in Welsh hospitals already that it was likely she will stay in Wales after graduation.

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