What’s Next?

Thursday, 07 February 2019

Medico-Chirurgical Hall

Professor Rona Patey, Honorary Clinical Professor, Medical Education, University of Aberdeen.

MBChB at the University of Aberdeen: what’s next?

Rona will consider the achievements and ongoing development of the University of Aberdeen MBChB programme through the lens of current national and international drivers and our engagement with students and patients. The MBChB programme is more than 500 years old and yet it keeps developing and changing. The drivers for change are many and include changes in healthcare delivery as well as output from educational evaluation and research. In this overview we will examine some of the current influential drivers for change and and explore the resulting innovation and development in our programme.


Note of meeting 7th February 2019

In the absence of The President, Dr Bill Reith, President Elect, chaired the well attended meeting.

He firstly paid tribute to Dr Derek Matheson, a former member, who had recently died.  He also mentioned the recent Burns Night, held in conjunction with the students’ Medical Society.  The evening had been a success although fewer Med Chi members than usual were present.

Dr Reith then introduced the guest speaker, Prof Rona Patey, Director of the Institute for Education in Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen.  The title of her talk was “MB ChB at the University of Aberdeen: What’s Next”.

Prof Patey began by mentioning league tables, saying that although they are based on poor science, Aberdeen ranks highly, being first in Scotland and in the top 150 word wide.  She then showed a diagram of an overview of the undergraduate medical curriculum, the first three years being ‘foundation’ years, the fourth year being when the major written assessments are held, and the fifth year being an apprentice year ending in final assessments.  Much of the teaching takes place in clinical settings, especially during the fourth and fifth years.  5 of Scotland’s 8 health Board are closely involved with student teaching with students getting equal support wherever they are placed.

Prof Patey then went on to describe changes which are coming to year 4.  Instead of nine 5 week blocks there will be seven blocks of 6 weeks, meaning that not all specialities will be included.  2 ‘professional practice’ blocks will include things like communication skills, ethics and prescribing and other ‘horizontal themes’ will be included in all blocks, including end of life care and cost and value of healthcare.  The drivers for change include preparation for national assessments, changes in specialities and many other changes such as professionalism, workforce changes and ‘realistic medicine’ (fiscal responsibility and patient involvement).

There will be assessments at the end of each block and a major written assessment including questions from a national bank.   OSCEs (objective structured clinical examinations) are held every year.

Year 5 also has end of block assessments and a major ‘structured OSCE’ at the end of the year.  Those who fail to achieve high scores in day one are asked back for further assessment on a second day.  These 5th year assessments need to fit in with national regulations especially if graduates intend to apply for the UK Foundation Programme.

But changes are possibly coming due to the GMC introducing a National Medical Licencing Assessment which all those wishing to practice in the UK will have to pass (excepting those with equivalent EU degrees) and Prof Patey  spend some time describing some of the possible implications for the Aberdeen course and the present scheme of assessments.  Pilot versions are planned with implementation scheduled for 2023 but several issues still need to be resolved, including for example the availability of sufficient computers.

Prof Patey also spoke about other work which is ongoing with the GMC and mentioned the very positive feedback which the Aberdeen course had achieved.

She then talked about the Scottish Medical Education Research Consortium which aims to develop the workforce and the clinical learning environment.  They have looked at the chances of graduates entering general practice and found that factors include being a mature student, being female and being the first member of the family to enter higher education.

Although the number of medical students is increasing, the number of applicants is decreasing so it is easier to get into medical school than it was.  There is a push to train more Scottish domiciled students and there will be a further 30 students coming to Aberdeen including schemes such as a graduate entry course and a course for those transferring from other related disciplines.  There is also a ‘widening access’ scheme which encourages entrants from deprived backgrounds.  They have a pre-medical course for which a bursary is available and they also have access to health care bank work.  So far these students are doing well.

Finally, mention was made of the Sri Lanka Medical Pathway which gives students three years at Aberdeen before the final 2 years are undertaken back in Sri Lanka with the  degree being a UoA MB ChB.

Prof Patey answered a series of questions before being thanked by Dr Reith for her excellent presentation.


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