High levels of debt put students off careers in medicine

The financial barriers to a career in medicine are growing and threaten to turn medicine into an elitist profession, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

Latest BMA figures show the average fifth-year medical student owes £19,248 – 16 per cent higher than last year – and many owe more than £30,000.

Average debt for students from all years was £13,301, up 18% from last year, and the largest amount owed was £56,000, an increase of 15 per cent.

Average student debt in the UK stands at £12,069 according to research by Barclays bank.

This is the first year that all the students in the survey began their courses after tuition fees were introduced and grants were scrapped in England, and this largely accounts for the sharp increases.

The BMA said its survey of 1,314 UK medical students provided evidence of the risk that medicine will become an elitist profession. 

Only one in 12 (8 per cent) of the students surveyed came from blue-collar backgrounds; compared to 62 per cent who came from families where the main source of income was from a managerial or professional occupation.

Leigh Bissett, who chairs the BMA’s Medical Students Committee, said: “If the government is serious about opening up medical careers to students from all backgrounds it needs to tackle the financial disincentives to studying medicine.”  

“If we fail to take the problem seriously we will deny many talented students fair access to careers in the NHS, and deny patients the chance to benefit from their skills,” he said.

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