'We have too many posh doctors', says London-based GP

‘We have too many posh doctors’: London-based GP calls for medical schools to let in more students from poorer backgrounds ‘who may be more caring’

  • Dr David Turner said school grades should not be the only consideration
  • People from modest backgrounds may be more caring doctors, he said
  • And they may also be more likely to be GPs, an option unpopular with graduates
  • Dr Turner said he met one medical student who had never seen a council estate 

The UK has too many posh doctors because people get into medical school almost solely on good school grades, a GP has claimed.

Dr David Turner, a family doctor working in north-west London, wrote in a column that most doctors come from private or selective schools.

As a result, he said, many medical students are a privileged group who don’t reflect the diversity seen in society.

He said efforts to try and recruit more people from working class backgrounds could make medics more compassionate and more likely to become GPs – a group the NHS is trying urgently to hire.

GPs working in England earn £92,500 on average and, Dr Turner wrote in his column, teenagers taking A Levels at private or selective schools are ‘infinitely’ more likely to get the grades they need to be accepted to medical school (stock image)

Dr Turner said medical schools would end up with more ‘caring’ doctors if they used measures other than school grades to select students

Writing in GP specialist magazine, Pulse, Dr Turner revealed an experience he had with a medical student who had never seen social housing before.

When visiting a council estate the student said ‘what sort of housing is this?’, he wrote.

‘We’ve made improvements in medicine to address the gender and ethnic diversity balance,’ Dr Turner wrote.

‘But these improvements haven’t been matched by corresponding increases in social diversity.

Official figures showed in 2018 that 41 per cent of GPs – around 10,000 doctors – are 50 or over and are expected to quit within the next five to ten years. 

And 2.5 million patients are at risk of their local GP surgery closing because so many are relying on doctors who are close to retirement.

At the same time, fewer young doctors are choosing to specialise as GPs and are opting for other career paths as surgeons or specialists. 

Many GPs are retiring in their 50s, moving abroad or leaving to work in the private sector, increasing the pressure on those who still work in the sector. 

Appointment waiting times are getting longer and more people are going to A&E for minor illnesses because they can’t see a doctor. 

Despite an NHS a plan to recruit 5,000 extra GPs by 2021, numbers of family doctors are falling.   

And 762 GP practices across the UK could close within the next five years, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, told The Times: ‘This is a desperate situation with potentially serious consequences for patients.’  

‘Most of our current junior doctors went to private schools or selective state schools, which is to say that we have too many posh doctors.’

The NHS is in the midst of a staffing crisis and the Conservative Party claims it will hire 6,000 doctors if elected, although it made the same promise five years ago and didn’t deliver.

While hospitals are short of doctors, GPs are also in short supply in some areas.

Many are approaching retirement age and, with the specialism not a popular option with new graduates, not enough new GPs are coming through the ranks to replace them. 

Dr Turner, who admits he went to a selective state school but said his parents weren’t rich, said medical students from more modest backgrounds were actually more likely to go into general practice.

And he suggested assessing people not only on grades could help them to find more compassionate staff, rather than people getting through purely on academic merit. 

Therefore, those from poorer families should be encouraged to become doctors, he said. A GP working in England earns, on average, £92,500 a year, according to the British Medical Association. 

Dr Turner said: ‘It sounds simple, but the reality is that medical schools still admit students almost entirely on the basis of A-level grades.

‘A wealthy, hot-housed, privately-educated student is going to find getting straight As infinitely easier than someone from a poorer background attending an average state school.

‘You don’t need to be super intelligent to become a good doctor.

‘You do, though, need have the ability to work very hard, persevere and show empathy and compassion for patients.

‘If medical schools started to skew their selection process towards these “softer” markers of what might make a good doctor, not only would we start to turn out more caring doctors – we’d also start to generate more medical graduates who want to be GPs.’

Dr Turner said he was ‘under no illusion’ that the situation would change quickly but he hoped doctors could be persuaded to choose general practice in future.

MORE THAN 700 GP SURGERIES COULD CLOSE BY 2023

More than 2.5 million patients across England could see their GP surgeries close in the next five years, experts revealed in November.

The Royal College of General Practitioners said 762 practices in the UK are at risk of closing within the next five years because at least three quarters of their doctors are aged 55 or over and approaching retirement.

Experts said so many closures would have a ‘catastrophic’ effect on the health service. 

Appointment waiting times could get even longer, workloads would grow and more people could end up queueing at A&E for minor illnesses.

Campaigners warned the potential closures would be ‘dangerous’ for patients and are calling for ‘drastic action’ to encourage new GPs to join the profession.

The situation is worst in Southend in Essex, where 13 of the area’s 35 GP practices are at risk of closing, potentially affecting nearly 39,000 patients.

A third of surgeries in the London borough of Havering could shut down, and more than 85,000 patients could lose their GP in Sandwell and West Birmingham.

Only around a quarter of areas of England have no practices at risk of closure, according to the RCGP’s estimates.

Figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners have revealed 762 GP practices across the UK are at risk of closing in the next five years (Map shows the proportion of surgeries in each area which are at risk of closing)

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