An update from Tom Combellack, Chair of the BMA Welsh Medical Students Committee.
The past three months have been very productive for the BMA Welsh medical students committee.
We have been focusing on finance, medical education, welfare and administration, as well as developing topics for debate at next month’s BMA annual medical students conference.
And we have successfully established a good working relationship with the new dean of medicine at Cardiff. At our regular meetings, it is clear that our opinions are being listened to and that our suggestions have been followed up and acted upon by the medical school.
These include having a clearer administrative structure, improving communication, addressing teaching inconsistency across Wales, and highlighting the importance of internet access for students on placements.
Throughout our exchanges the dean has been explicit about the issues leading to last year’s examination problems and the changes that have been made to ensure such a scenario does not happen again.
We are actively feeding into the Welsh healthcare funding review, and are working closely with the key stakeholders to ensure that medical students are not taken for granted and that any myths about medical student finances are dispelled.
The MSC’s Need for Change report on medical student finance and results from the focus groups for the English NHS bursary consultation have been instrumental in sending a clear message about our plight.
Medical student placements are currently financed through a funding stream known as the service increment for teaching. This helps the NHS meet the extra costs associated with teaching medical students. The WMSC believes it lacks accountability, and we intend to push for a more transparent system. In 2006, we used the Freedom of Information Act to ask trusts in Wales how the money was spent. Their answers showed it was not always spent the way it should be. We have now asked the same question. We will compare the results, and that analysis will influence our policy.
WMSC vice-chair Rob Seal, has been developing a finance questionnaire for graduate students.
Financially, these students form a very vulnerable group, and the results of the questionnaire will also shape our future work.
If you would like to raise any issues or enquire about our work, then please contact us via Lynn Steer by emailing LSteer@bma.org.uk.