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New BMA chief: medicine should not be preserve of elite

THE new leader of Scotland’s doctors has said that medicine should not be the preserve of the “privileged few”.

Dr Peter Bennie said it was difficult for people from “diverse backgrounds” and those without wealthy parents to become doctors.

The high fees and lengthy university courses involved in getting a medical degree were largely to blame, he suggested.

Dr Bennie, a psychiatrist based in Paisley, Renfrewshire, is the new chairman of the British Medical Association Scotland, the registered trade union and professional body for doctors.

In his first interview since taking up the post this month, he said: “Medicine should not be the preserve of the privileged few.

“Access to a career in medicine should be based on academic ability, not the ability to pay.”

“There’s an increasingly heavy financial burden to go into medical school at all.

“The course is longer, fees higher, so there’s a bias against those from more diverse backgrounds, and those who do not have independent means from their parents.”

Dr Bennie said the answer to making medical schools more accessible was “financial support”.

He said this would “make it possible for those who do not have access to independent finances”.

Medical students should also be guaranteed a training place in the NHS on completion of their degree, he said.

He said: “It would not be responsible of us to encourage young people to study medicine, generate debts of £20-30,000 without ensuring that they have the opportunity to achieve full registration to enable them to practice medicine.”

Dr Bennie said he would take the doctors’ perspective “to the politicians and civil servants responsible for shaping health policy in Scotland”.

“I will encourage them to listen; to understand the realities and implications of their actions not just for doctors, but for patients and the health service,” he said.

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