New research finds that two thirds of medical students have faced financial or mental health pressures
One of the UK’s leading medical charities is calling for greater support for future doctors as new figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that more than 1,000 medical students have withdrawn from their course over the last five years.
The Med Students Matter campaign, launched today by the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF), celebrates the contribution medical students make to the NHS and highlights the need for more support to ensure they can complete their training.
The campaign is being launched as more students are turning to the RMBF for support, with the number of applicants having more than doubled over the past two years. Research commissioned by the RMBF found that 93% of medical students are still pleased with their decision to study medicine, yet:
- More than 40% of medical students say that they or someone they know had considered withdrawing from their degree as a result of financial pressure
- 60% of medical students have experienced financial pressures while undertaking their degree
- More than two thirds (68%) of medical students have experienced mental health pressure while undertaking their degree
The figures on the number of medical students withdrawing in the last five years were obtained after the RMBF submitted Freedom of Information requests to every university with a medical school in the UK. 22 universities responded to the request, reporting 771 withdrawals – extrapolating the average withdrawal rate to the universities who did not respond takes the UK-wide figure well over 1,000.
Figures from the Freedom of Information request also indicate that on average 36 students per year withdraw during their final two years of study in the UK. With the cost of training a single doctor now estimated at £220,000, even a small reduction in the number of students who are lost to medicine in their final years would save millions of pounds and help tackle future UK doctor shortages. Since April 2017, the RMBF has prevented 26 medical students from being forced to withdraw from their degrees and helped them to go on and qualify as doctors.
In 2016, the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to train 1,500 extra doctors by 2020 to make the UK “self-sufficient in doctors” after Brexit. Given the critical shortages facing the healthcare workforce and the future health needs of the population, every medical student forced to withdraw unnecessarily from their degree represents a loss that is far more serious than just the cost of their training.
Belal, a final year medical student who has been supported by the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, said:
“I had to work part-time to fund my degree but during my second year I started having serious health issues which required an operation, leaving me unable to continue working. Not being able to work created a black hole in my finances and without additional support I would have had to drop out. The support I got means I am now in my final year and hoping to become a surgeon very soon.”
Professor Dame Parveen Kumar DBE, President of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, said:
“We are seeing more and more medical students coming to us for support, and that’s no surprise when our research shows around two thirds are facing financial or mental health pressures. In many cases these students are facing a choice between food and rent – with their finances put under extreme strain by costs that are especially high for medical students, such as professional clothing, transport and placements.
“If a medical student misses a single course commitment they risk failing that year or even their whole degree – so a sudden drop in income can have disastrous consequences.
“Our medical students matter to this country and to future patients so it is vital that we give them the help they need to succeed. These are people who we and our children will depend on in future, and supporting them is one of the best investments we can make.”
The RMBF specialises in helping doctors and medical students in financial hardship resulting from illness, accidents, bereavement and disability. By providing grants and tailored support, they make sure students in their final two years of study aren’t forced to withdraw unexpectedly due to hardship when faced with circumstances outside of their control, such as the death of a parent or serious illness.
More information about the Med Students Matter campaign can be found on the RMBF website. People can support the campaign on social media using the hashtag #MedStudentsMatter and donate to the RMBF at www.rmbf.org/support-students.
For more information about this please contact Royal Medical Benevolent Fund press office on [email protected] or 0203 861 3744
Notes to Editors
The RMBF is the UK charity for doctors, medical students and their families. They provide financial support, money advice and information when it is most needed due to age, ill health, disability or bereavement. This help includes grants and loans as well as a telephone befriending scheme for those who may be isolated and in need of support. The RMBF has a 250+ strong volunteer network across the UK and has been helping doctors for over 180 years.
- Research with medical students was conducted by specialist agency Youthsight in October 2018.
- Freedom of Information requests were submitted on behalf of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund in September 2018, with responses received from universities in October 2018.
- Statistics on the cost of training a doctor are obtained from the Department of Health.