RCS launches new national undergraduate curriculum
09 Oct 2015
Mrs Scarlett McNally, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Council Member at the Royal College of Surgeons, said there is variable teaching of basic surgery at medical schools in the UK. She warned that this is leaving some newly qualified doctors without the practical skills and surgical knowledge to manage patients’ conditions in hospitals and GP practices. This could result in an incorrect diagnosis or a patient being referred for tests unnecessarily.
Mrs McNally said that it is particularly important medical students are exposed to high quality surgical training and education in their undergraduate years, as more and more newly qualified doctors become GPs, who initially diagnose a patient’s condition and decide whether or not to refer them to a specialist. In 2013, Health Education England set a target of 50% of medical students becoming GPs by 2015.
She said: “We must make sure that all medical students are exposed to surgical practice and training in their undergraduate years so they can make the correct diagnosis and referral when they treat patients. There is a risk that if undergraduates do not gain this surgical experience, they may not have an opportunity to do so once they have qualified.
“We hope this new curriculum will be used by medical schools across the country, and by surgeons and medical students, to ensure that our future doctors acquire the basic surgical skills they need before graduating. These core skills and knowledge are relevant to all aspects of medicine and a patient’s treatment, irrespective of the doctors’ subsequent career pathway.”
Surgery remains one of the most important treatments offered to patients by the NHS for a range of medical conditions. An analysis of Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data shows there were 4.7 million surgical admissions to hospitals in 2013/2014 and a 27 per cent increase in the number of admissions for surgical procedures between 2003/2004 and 2013/2014.
However, a recent study published in the International Journal of Surgery, which surveyed 23 of the UK’s 33 medical schools, concluded that medical schools provide ‘some training in basic surgical and procedural skills, though a standardised, uniform and consistent national approach does not exist.’ It recommended there should be a new national undergraduate curriculum covering surgery.
Mrs McNally spoke out as the RCS published a national undergraduate curriculum in surgery to help standardise teaching at medical schools across the country, so that students are equipped with the skills and competencies they need. It contains a list of conditions which could require surgery, and which are considered essential for every doctor to understand, as well as skills they should be able to perform.
The new curriculum was written by a team of medical students, surgical trainees, senior surgeons and representatives of the surgical specialty associations. It should be used in conjunction with the General Medical Council’s Tomorrow’s Doctors which outlines the outcomes that are expected of a modern undergraduate curriculum.
View the new RCS national undergraduate curriculum in surgery.
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