I’m writing this the evening before a meeting with the General Medical Council and HEE Wessex, when we will be formally given feedback from our regulator on their five yearly Review of our University of Southampton BMBS Medicine programmes.  Last November we submitted fifty written documents to the GMC, detailing our curricula, their governance and processes, our assessments, our oversight of placements, our student support systems and so on.  Our students, across all years, were invited to complete a questionnaire detailing their opinions of the course. They replied in record numbers for a GMC Review, rating the course and their experiences of it very highly.

The Review included a GMC team visit to us at Highfield in March 2018, on a wet windy day, coincident with strike action and road works on Bassett Avenue.  In addition to the discussions with many members of staff, we were delighted that over 50 students turned up to relate their experiences of the course in the student session.  The final Visit Report (- which will be published on the GMC website shortly) gives an excellent appraisal of our BM programmes.  There are some great statements in the list of ‘Areas that are working well’, amongst them: ‘The students recommend Southampton Medical School as a friendly and good quality educational experience.  They believe that the course is preparing them effectively for practice’; ‘Students are engaged at all levels within the medical school. The school is prepared to listen and adjust their processes to improve student experience’; ‘Rotations appear to be well constructed and designed to improve exposure to a diverse range of patient types’; ‘The pastoral support systems that are in place are working well and are highly valued by the students’.

Huge thanks to all our staff and students who contributed in the Review. It was a positive process and we should feel proud, and spread the word, that the GMC rates our medicine courses so highly.

Further confirmation that the BM Programmes here have an excellent reputation comes from the record number of applications that we received last year to the BM 4, 5 and 6 programmes.  This increase was achieved despite the reduction in numbers of school leavers choosing to study medicine, and increased medical school places across the country.  And in July our first cohort of BM(EU) students graduated – a great day of celebration, shared with colleagues from Kassel, Germany and Professor Chris Stephens, our emeritus Professor of Medical Education who was instrumental in establishing this innovative programme.

So Southampton Medicine is thriving. Or is it?  Less good news came in August, when the results of the National Student Survey 2018 were released.  Medicine at Southampton scored poorly in this anonymous survey of final year student opinion, in complete contrast to our excellent GMC survey and Review findings.  We believe that this low score is a single ‘blip’, reflecting challenges in having both the ‘original’ curriculum and the first iteration of the ‘new’ curriculum final year running side by side.  We must, and will, improve on this next year.

Margaret McCarthy, a GP from Glasgow, wrote her final ‘Comment’ article in the BMJ last week (BMJ 2018;362;k3745) in which she lists 31 things she has learnt in her years of writing this weekly column. They are worth a ponder.  Her statement Number 16 particularly chimed with me: ‘Keep your ‘thank you’ cards.’  I encourage all of us involved with education here in the Faculty to ‘keep’ those thank you e-mails and letters from students, the excellent student comments from the GMC Review, the positive comments from the NSS. There is no better job satisfaction than those thank yous.

An excellent GMC review of Southampton medical school – spread the word

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