Hospital work experience on sale for £500
A careers advice charity has criticised the selling of hospital work experience placements for £500.
Deborah Streatfield of MyBigCareer says it is "completely unfair" that pupils interested in studying medicine were being asked to pay for work experience to help their university applications.
The week's work experience is being offered through the Chartwell Trust which runs a private hospital in Essex.
The trust's directors said the offer was a "remarkable opportunity".
The "Chartwell Work Experience For Medical School Applications" offers an "in-depth insight" into working in a hospital and in healthcare, shadowing staff and gaining "valuable medical work experience" to support a Ucas application.
The brochure, sent to schools and aimed at 15-year-olds and upwards, promises "good supervision from motivated staff" in hospital and "interview training carried out by our qualified doctors".
The trust also operates care homes and the brochure says: "We will have you rotate through our care homes which are for children with learning difficulties and the elderly with dementia."
Medicine is one of the most competitive courses for university entry - and the work placement programme says students will "learn many valuable medical school interview techniques".
Mrs Streatfield's charity works to give young people better advice about careers, in the belief that social mobility will be improved if young people are better informed and understand what options are available.
But she believes that selling work experience in this way is a barrier to opening access to sought-after courses such as medicine.
"Work experience is really important when applying for medicine and many disadvantaged students have no family links to exploit. This scheme is completely unfair," she said.
MyBigCareer is going to pilot unpaid work experience placements with 43 GP practices in Hackney and the City of London.
In a statement, the directors of Chartwell Trust Care, say that the placement provides one-to-one meetings with "senior management, consultant physicians, surgeons and directors to provide an insight into healthcare".
"This remarkable opportunity is afforded by the company having diagnostic facilities, outpatient clinics, and care homes. The empathy and compassion which the individual has exposure to for their personal development is reflected by the infrastructure of health and social care.
"The fee charged is to cover administrative costs and coaching to the individual which is designed to increase their confidence and self-esteem to make an application to start their career in healthcare."
There have been particular concerns about the need to attract a wider range of applicants to medicine, with warnings that it draws too many recruits from wealthier backgrounds.
Research from the Medical Schools Council in December showed that half of UK secondary schools and colleges had not provided a single applicant to medicine in recent years.