Getting men into medicine – A letter to the RCGP

A letter in the recent RCGP journal is of interest.  Getting men into medicine,

Men are finding it increasingly difficult to access a medical career. The current admissions criteria to gain entry to UK medical schools have resulted in more women being accepted than in the past. The situation is similar to 50 years ago, but in reverse, when women found it difficult to obtain a place to train in medicine. Fortunately this under-representation of females has gradually been rectified but now the pendulum has swung the other way. This has resulted in a profession which in future will be deprived of the contribution of men. Patients will find it difficult to see a male GP if they so wish. As the population is composed of approximately equal numbers of males and females would it not be sensible to reflect this in our medical workforce and provide a degree of balance?

According to the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) there may not be sufficient numbers in the GP workforce until 2030.1 This is a worrying situation for both patients and doctors and is partially due to the fewer hours worked by women compared to men. As the current generation of male GPs retires, gaps will be exposed in service provision. By addressing the under-representation of men entering medical school the problem could be ameliorated, as historically men have tended to work longer hours than women and there is no evidence that this is going to change. Perhaps medical schools could review their admissions criteria, which currently favour those who are academically successful in school, and put greater emphasis on other qualities that contribute to the making of ‘a good doctor’ such as a caring and compassionate nature combined with emotional and physical resilience. Admissions tutors must be aware that boys mature later than girls and the necessary qualities required may not be so evident at age 18 in the male sex. Maybe this later flowering of abilities needs to be given greater recognition during the selection process to help improve this area of developing inequality in the medical workforce.

The authors don’t comment on the fact that so many British applicants of both sexes are turned down for medical courses, nor that there are so many doctors who trained abroad working in the UK.. Neither do they comment on Graduate Entry to Medical School, which seems to even out the numbers who “pass” the entry criteria.

Women perform better at the skills tested for Medical School entry at age 17/18. Men catch them up by the age of 21/23 and it is this group, who give more value to the profession, who should be recruited nationally. Nevertheless the letter is interesting and accurate, but an adverse selection bias towards men at 17/18 would be a controversial step, and as a rejected woman I would feel hard done by..

The letter was sent from

Alison Wheeler, GP, West View Surgery, Keynsham, Bristol. E-mail:

Anna Graham, GP Horfield Health Centre, Bristol.

Mark Harrison, GP St Mary Street Surgery, Thornbury, Bristol.

John Jackson, GP Winscombe and Banwell Family Practice, Banwell.

Mark Bigwood, GP Hanham Surgery, Hanham, Bristol.

Matt Hoghton, GP Clevedon Riverside, Clevedon.

See other NHSreality posts:

“Medical Student debt – time for government to change policy on doctor recruitment”

Bias claims over medical school tests

GP recruitment – and leadership opportunities?

Update 6th April 2014: Max Pemburton in The Telegraph 31st March 2014 reports: THE STAFFING CRISIS LOOMING OVER MEDICINE 

For the first time ever, there are now more female GPs than male. In addition, the proportion of women doctors is set to increase, with some medical schools now having 80 per cent females.

I’m delighted that the male dominance of medicine has finally come to an end. But what does this mean for the landscape of health care in the future? And have things gone too far the other way?

The problem, put starkly, is that the average male medical graduate will work full-time, while the average female won’t. This means that the state will get more man hours out of a male graduate than a female graduate during their career. As more and more women enter the profession, we should be seeing a corresponding increase in the number of places at medical school to account for this, but we aren’t. We are therefore facing a crisis in the medical workforce. There are also serious concerns about future recruitment to the less “family-friendly” specialties, such as A&E.

No one likes saying this for fear of being branded sexist. But it’s not sexist to point out that we’re heading for a worrying shortage of doctors — yet no  one seems to be doing anything about it.

and Laura Donelly reports 31st Jan 2014: Scale of NHS financial crisis revealed amid looming staff cuts

Exclusive: NHS hospitals are facing widespread financial problems, and staff cuts, on a level not seen in recent years

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Medical Education on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

2 thoughts on “Getting men into medicine – A letter to the RCGP

  1. Pingback: Home visits and extended hours to transform GP care, says PM | NHS reality. An NHS soapbox. Speakers' corner for the NHS.

  2. Pingback: Patients at risk as GPs face forced shutdown – will Primary Medical Care follow Dental Care into being covertly rationed? | NHS reality. An NHS soapbox. Speakers' corner for the NHS.

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