'Future doctors will be mostly from ethnic minority groups'
London, September 3
It is no longer a matter of surprise for a patient in Britain to be treated by an Indian or Chinese doctor. A new research has found that doctors in the future will be overwhelmingly female and from ethnic minority groups.
The study by the UK Medical Careers Research Group at Oxford University has found that only a quarter of today's medical students are white men. The biggest gain is among Asian (including Chinese) students. They comprise eight per cent of the population in this age range, but make up 20.8 per cent of medical students.
The research has also found that the NHS has become increasingly dependent on doctors who have trained overseas. These doctors are also particularly used to fill posts that UK-trained medics do not want, such as in geriatric and sexual health medicine. The analysis follows continued rising trends in foreign doctors joining the British medical register. Last year 13,926 doctors joining the General Medical Council's register came from overseas, with doctors from South Africa and India in the lead, compared to 4,730 who were trained in the UK.
In 2002, white men comprised 43.5 per cent of the population of Britain but only 26 per cent of the medical students. Professor Michael Goldacre, who led the research, said: "I don't have an answer. There has been a tremendous amount of interest in widening participation in medicine to all social classes and minority groups. But people have missed one part of the big picture, which is the huge decline in white men."
He added: "There may be simply too few qualified white males coming through the system." The team measured the change by comparing medical school graduates in 1974 with those of 2000. In 1974 (excluding overseas students) 98.4 per cent were white and 1.6 per cent non-white. By 2000, the proportion of white students was down to 78.5 per cent and non-whites up to 21 per cent.
However, in senior posts the white male still dominates, but that is also changing. In 1964-71, more than 95 per cent of hospital consultants were white, and most of them male. By 2001, the proportion was down to around 60 per cent, according to the research.
The proportion who are non-white was only about 2 per cent in 1974 but will approach 30 per cent by 2005. Ethnic minorities comprise 12.8 per cent of those aged 20-24, so they are substantially over-represented at medical schools.