The latest edition of Medical Education[i], which has long been the top ranked journal of its kind[ii], reminds us that it is 30 years since the Edinburgh Declaration[iii] was approved at the World Conference on Medical Education held in the city whose name it bears.

The declaration espouses a number of actions which the authors believed medical schools should take to produce doctors who move beyond simply delivering ‘curative services’ to people in a position to pay for and/or access these to ones who actively promote the health of all. These included calls for more teaching outside the hospital environment, a reduced reliance on lectures and a greater emphasis on professionalism and social values whilst promoting education and prevention as key ways of achieving our national health priorities.

It has to be said that the declaration was not universally welcomed at the time by the medical establishment, but looking at it now, it is hard to disagree with either the tone or the detail. So how have we done? At Southampton I believe we can justifiably be proud of our progress over the last three decades.

Our integrated Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery curriculum is delivered using innovative teaching methods in a wide range of settings and ensures that our students graduate as competent doctors prepared to operate with compassion and professionalism within the limits of available resources.

Our widening access and graduate entry programmes ensure that we attract students from the widest possible base and all our students, whether from the UK or abroad, are encouraged to move beyond diagnosis and management to embrace health promotion and disease prevention, and to actively participate in the education of both their patients and future generations of doctors.

Perhaps where we and other medical schools still have some work to do is on the declaration’s fifth action, which is to ‘Train teachers as educators, not content experts alone, and reward excellence in this field as fully as excellence in biomedical research or clinical practice.’[iv]

With the recent introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and subject level TEF just around the corner, we are under greater pressure than ever before to deliver education of the highest quality. This is a challenge at the best of times but even more so for a research-focused Faculty operating at a time of financial constraint.

The Edinburgh declaration ends by saying, ‘Reform of medical education requires more than agreement; it requires a widespread commitment to action…’ and while it recognises that there is a financial dimension to this, it goes on to state that ‘…much can be achieved by a redefinition of priorities, and a reallocation of what is now available.’

In the current financial climate, the least we can do is to recognise excellence in teaching as fully as in other disciplines and to actively support and encourage those for whom education is not currently their main focus to contribute directly to producing the next generation of doctors.

Marcus Parry





Reform of medical education requires more than agreement

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