'Worrying' drop in medical students applying from Wales

Medical student Image copyright Green Bay/S4C
Image caption There are hopes a new documentary will inspire the next generation of medical students

The number of Welsh students applying to study medicine has fallen by 15% in the last five years, figures show.

There has been a decline across the UK but it is steeper in Wales.

Last year, 570 students applied from Wales to study medicine, according to the university applications body Ucas.

Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, which supports Welsh medium higher education, said it showed more needs to be done to ensure pupils are encouraged in medical school applications.

The number of applications from Welsh students was down from 670 in 2012 and was 110 fewer than in 2015.

Some medical experts have described the trend as "worrying".

Sara Whittam, who represents Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol at Cardiff University's medical school, said: "We know of the schools from which we get frequent applications.

"We also know the schools from which we have no applicants.

"It means there is a lot of work to do and a big responsibility on us to spread the message that every young person in Wales should have the educational opportunities for accessing medicine."

Ms Whittam also suggested recent media headlines about the strain on the NHS might have put students off pursuing a medical career.

She added: "There's been a lot of attention in the media about the problems facing the health service and the increasing workload on doctors. It's no surprise perhaps other careers become more appealing."

Some have suggested the Welsh Government set a quota for Welsh medical schools - in Cardiff and Swansea - for places only available to students from Wales.

Cardiff University said it has a policy of treating every applicant equally based on ability and potential.

The Welsh Government said it invested more than £350m a year in the education and training of health professionals, supporting more than 15,000 students, trainees and staff in Wales.

"We are working with health boards to develop a strategy to ensure NHS Wales has the medical workforce it needs now and in the future," a spokesman said.

"We are also working with the Wales Deanery, medical schools and other partners to promote Wales as a place to work, study and train.

"We are also working with both medical schools in Wales on their broader widening access work and in particular how they can increase the number of students from Wales studying in Welsh medical schools."

Image copyright Green Bay/S4C
Image caption Medical students in Cardiff have been followed for a new documentary series

There are hopes a new six-part documentary series, Doctoriaid Yfory (Tomorrow's Doctors) starting on S4C on Tuesday at 20:25 BST, will inspire another generation of medical students.

Those taking part include Ainsley Richards, who said her passion for science and anatomy got her interested in medicine.

She said it was an "exciting, clinical course" at Cardiff and she was able to study in the Welsh language.

"I think people might be surprised how diverse medicine is," said Ms Richards, a fourth year student from Mumbles, Swansea.

"Everyone thinks it's like Holby City to Casualty, but there's a lot more to it. I guess people might think it's just blood and gore but a lot of the time it's about communication, relating information to the patient and letting them know it's OK".

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