A push to get students from deprived backgrounds on the path to a career as a doctor has been launched in the North-east, the Evening Express can reveal.
The unique programme, Gateway2Medicine (G2M), aims to make a medical career more accessible to secondary school pupils from a wider range of backgrounds.
The initiative will give students, who may have considered an application to medical school out of their reach, the option to embark on a course at North East Scotland College (NESC) first – offering a new route into a medical degree in a ground breaking move.
Those who successfully complete the course are guaranteed a first-year place on the University of Aberdeen medicine programme.
Professor Steve Heys, head of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition at the institution, said the move is a big step towards reducing inequalities.
He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for young people who had never thought of pursuing a career in medicine to do so with the help of the University of Aberdeen and North East Scotland College.
“We believe widening participation in medicine is key, both to address inequality for those from social and geographically disadvantaged situations and to create a diverse environment that benefits all our students and medical practices in Scotland.
“Our nationally acclaimed research in this area shows that highly-achieving school pupils at schools in deprived areas are less likely than those from other school backgrounds to ever consider medicine as an option. When they do, the practical support available is often limited or even discourages medicine as a career.”
The programme, which is supported by NHS Grampian, is now open to applicants via UCAS and ties in to a government drive to get students from the most deprived backgrounds representing 20% of entrants to higher education.
Successful students will embark on a two trimester qualification, the first running from August to December then January to May. This includes regular activities at the medical school such as clinical skills and student-led activities.
Upon successful completion of the course, students will be awarded a Certificate in Higher Education – Cert HE – in Pre-Medical Studies from the University of Aberdeen.
Scottish Government figures for 2016/17 reveal 10.2% of 8,655 Aberdeen secondary school pupils live in a deprived area. Out of 14,378 Aberdeenshire secondary pupils, 1.9% fall into this category, with 7.8% of 6,336 pupils in Angus and 1.1% of 4,915 in Moray.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) identifies small area concentrations of multiple deprivation across all of Scotland in a consistent way.
“It allows effective targeting of policies and funding where the aim is to wholly or partly tackle or take account of area concentrations of multiple deprivation.
“SIMD provides a wealth of information to help improve the understanding about the outcomes and circumstances of people living in the most deprived areas in Scotland.”
Applicants to the G2M programme need to be residents in an area with a postcode which falls within the lowest 20% of the Scottish index of multiple deprivation (SIMD) or have experience as a young person in care.