Doctors’ representatives say trainee medics are struggling to make ends meet because student grants and loans are below the benefits threshold.
The British Medical Association (BMA) says the NHS bursary provided to medical students is “unacceptably low” and is unfairly disadvantaging low income trainees.
Khadija Meghrawi, co-chair of the BMA medical students committee, is calling for a review.
“We are a nation in desperate need of more doctors and to grow a medical workforce that is both fit for the future and is reflective of the population that it works to treat, the government must provide adequate financial support to medical students,” she said.
The campaign group Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) says final-year medical students outside London can only claim £6,458 per year including student loans.
Anna Sigston, DAUK medical student lead, said: “That figure makes non-students eligible for universal credit, so surely the government recognise this is not enough to live off?”
Eilidh Garrett, in her third year of a four-year medical degree, told Sky News she has no parental support to rely on and is forced to spend long hours on part-time jobs as well as studying and working in NHS placements.
“I’m living off about £550 a month at the moment and even less next year,” she said. “I never make it through the month and anything else that’s extra has to go on credit cards.”
She expects to graduate with more than £80,000 of debt, and said the lack of resources for students without parental support can be embarrassing.
“On placements sometimes we need special clothes, I can’t really say I can’t afford those clothes, especially when some of my peers have funds from their parents so they can,” she said.
According to research from London School of Economics, only 4% of doctors come from a working-class background.
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A 2011 Cabinet Office report said 51% of the UK’s top medics come from the 7% of people who have been privately educated, while the Medical Schools Council says around half of UK secondary schools and colleges did not provide any applicants to medicine from 2009-2011.
The Department of Health and Social Care told Sky News: “We are supporting medical students in England across all years of study and are keeping funding arrangements for all healthcare students under review.”