The Scottish doctor

Thursday 27 July 2000

At the beginning of August each year the NHS in Scotland greets another batch of newly qualified pre-registration house officers the majority of whom will have graduated from Scottish medical schools. But what exactly does it mean to be a Scottish medical graduate and what does that label tell employers about the qualities and abilities of these graduates? The answer, at present, is probably “not much”.

However, a unique project carried out by the Scottish Deans’ Medical Curriculum Group, which includes input from the University of St Andrews, will change this.

Following wide consultation throughout all the Scottish medical schools a common set of learning outcomes for undergraduate medical training have been identified. These outcomes define the qualities and abilities of a graduate from any of the five Scottish medical schools and will be used to plan and develop medical teaching as well as providing stakeholders such as NHS employers and the public with a clearer idea of what they can expect from our graduates. In particular, this work has responded to obvious concerns voiced by the public as well as within the medical profession, regarding the “non-science” aspects of medical practice and places firm emphasis on elements such as ethics and communication skills.

“This initiative demonstrates just how much medical education has changed in recent years,” says Professor Graeme Catto, the Chairman of the Education Committee of the General Medical Council. “Concentrating on learning outcomes, provides a firm educational base from which to develop the caring and compassionate doctors which patients and the profession now expect,” he added.

Despite the five medical schools having different curricular styles and content it was still possible to reach agreement on what the most fundamental and vitally important elements of undergraduate medical education are. At the same time, the means by which these outcomes will be achieved will vary between schools thereby retaining a diversity of curricula which is essential if we are to avoid producing generic clones rather than individual doctors each with something different to contribute.

The project would not have been possible without invaluable support from the Scottish Office and the Deans of the medical schools. “This has been an important collaborative project,” comments Sir David Carter, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland. “I am delighted that all 5 medical schools in Scotland have worked together so constructively to define the learning outcomes that are essential for modern undergraduate medical education.”

The project report, entitled Learning Outcomes for the Medical Undergraduate in Scotland: a foundation for competent and reflective practitioners, can be freely viewed on the Internet at and feedback is welcome.

Contacts –

Dr Jacqueline Furnace, Project Co-ordinator Tel 01224 404912 e-mail [email protected]

Dr Gordon McPhate School of Biomedical Sciences University of St Andrews Tel 01334 463597 e-mail [email protected]

Professor John Simpson Dept of Pathology Aberdeen University Medical School Tel 01224 552848 e-mail [email protected]

Mrs Joy Crosby Curriculum Facilitator Ninewells Hospital and Medical School Dundee Tel 01382 660111 Ext 33201 e-mail [email protected]

Mr Phillip Evans Medical Teaching Organisation University of Edinburgh Medical School Tel 0131 650 6965 e-mail [email protected]

Mr David Lloyd Curriculum Development Officer Medical Education Unit University of Glasgow Tel 0141 339 8855 Ext 0410 e-mail [email protected]


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