Year 3: Integrated BSc in Primary Health Care

UCL Graduation
UCL Graduation

The iBSc in Primary Health Care we believe offers a unique combination of ongoing clinical experience (attached to a London general practice) and the acquisition of academic skills relevant to a career in clinical medicine.

The course consists of a taught course, clinical placement and a research project dissertation. It is unusual in offering students the ability to develop their own questions into full research projects. While this sounds daunting, students find this the most rewarding part of the course. Many of our students have associated research with laboratories and test tubes, so are delighted when they realise our projects are very clinical, involving patients and clinicians. Some students have successfully published their projects in journals such as the BMJ or present at national conferences. Nearly 20% of students have gained 1st class honours degrees and just under 80% of students have obtained an upper second (or higher) class degrees.

Please refer to our flyer for more information and why you should choose the iBSc in Primary Health Care.


The course has been running successfully since 1998. It is usually over subscribed, but we have had reasonable success in allowing interested candidates to defer entry if not successful with their first application. We have attracted students from across the UK, but recently have given 1st preference to UCL students.

Course feedback from students has been favourable. One student writing in the BMJ described the course as "probably the best decision I ever made".

These web pages are intended to give you a flavour the content of the course, student projects, student results and student feedback. If you have any queries about the course, use the e-mail link to contact the course organisers.

Why an iBSc in Primary Health Care? We have entered the era of the "Primary care led" National Health Service. Not only do 50% of all medical graduates enter general practice, but also the general practitioners' assessment of the health needs of their local population, have a profound influence on the pattern of services provided by hospitals. However primary health care extends beyond general practice. It includes all health care with which the individual has first contact.

Medical students who want to practice as GPs are going to need additional skills, such as critical appraisal skills, knowledge of research methods and the social and psychological determinants of ill health to function optimally in this changing environment.

This iBSc will provide you with these additional skills to practise medicine in primary care. We feel that these skills will not only be helpful for the future GP, but in whatever discipline you may choose.

Qualifications Required

All UCL MBBS students are expected to undertake a BSc of their choice after completing 2 years. Like all other BSc it will last for one academic year beginning in September and ending in June.


The course will consist of five core modules plus a research project which students will be required to complete. The core modules are:

  • An overview of primary care and its research base (PRIM3001)
  • The consultation in primary care (PRIM3002)
  • The patient, the family and the illness (PRIM3003)
  • The population perspective of primary care (PRIM3004)
  • Critical appraisal of primary care and paediatric practice (PRIM3007) - a shared module with the iBSc in Paediatrics

Each module will have a theoretical and a practical (usually clinical) component. The course has a clinical commitment in terms 1 & 2. The teaching for all modules takes place over terms 1 and 2. Terms 3 is reserved for the examinations but also the practical aspects of the research project (gathering the data, analysis, writing up and submitting). The external examiner’s meeting is usually at the end of term three.

Outline of course modules
  1. PRIM3001: An overview of primary care and its research base (0.5 unit)

    This module covers the structure of Primary Care and its historical development in the UK, The growing research base, management issues within primary care services and the importance of teamwork in the primary care setting.

  2. PRIM3002: The consultation in primary care (0.5 unit)

    This module examines the doctor-patient interaction using various theoretical models before analysing the various tasks within consultations. Factors such as consultation style, the patient perspective and the cultural backgrounds of both doctor and patient will then be explored. There will be an opportunity to examine the student’s consulting style within the module.

  3. PRIM3003: The patient, the family and the illness (0.5 unit)

    The module will aim to give an overview of the various influences on patients' health, beliefs and behaviours, including personality variables, education, cultural background, social class and environment. It will look at patients' and doctors' perceptions of ill-health, the influences on patients' health beliefs and behaviours, the role of family in the origin, recognition, and management of ill-health. Non-medical forms of primary health care will be reviewed. This module will draw on work from the social sciences such as anthropology, sociology and psychology.

  4. PRIM3004: The population perspective (0.5 unit)

    This course enables students to understand the health needs of a population, how these may be

    assessed and the role of primary care services in meeting these needs. The themes include; principles of epidemiology, assessing the health needs of a population, preventing disease, promoting health, evaluating health care delivery and allocation of resources.

  5. PRIM3005: Research methodology and project training (1.5 unit)

    Training in research methods is an essential component of this course and each student will be required to undertake a project in a primary care setting. This will include principles of scientific method, qualitative and quantitative research methods, ethical issues in research, statistical computer packages and their use, writing a scientific paper, and oral presentation of a project.

  6. PRIM3007: Critical appraisal of primary care and Paediatric practice (0.5 unit)

    This module will aim to develop students' knowledge and skills in important areas of clinical management in the primary care setting. Students will develop critical appraisal skills, and learn how to apply evidence in decision making in the primary care setting.

  7. Clinical sessions

    Uniquely this course continues clinical contact through out the course (making it ideal for the clinical medical student who will be encouraged to maintain and develop their clinical skills). The sessions will be based mainly in local general practices (and you will be attached to a general practitioner for the duration of the course) but it will also include experience in other primary care settings e.g. A&E departments, community nursing. These will complement the theoretical aspects of the course.


  1. The assessment for the following modules consists of: 1 piece of in-course assessment (30% of total) plus the exam (70% of total)

    • An overview of primary care and its research base (PRIM3001)
    • The patient, the family and the illness(PRIM3003)
    • The consultation in primary care (PRIM3002)
    • The population perspective of primary care(PRIM3004)
    • Critical appraisal in primary care and paediatric practice (PRIM3007)
  2. The assessment for the critical appraisal module (PRIM3007) consists of: Examination work only (100% of total)
  3. The assessment of the research project (1.5 units) consists of: Submission of research protocol (10% of marks) plus the ‘final’ dissertation (90% of marks).

Teaching staff

The course will taught by members of the Department of Primary Care and Population Health of the UCL Medical School.

Students & Awards

Student intake

Student intake by Years 1-5 Year 6 Year 7 Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11 Year 12 Year 13 Year 14 Year 15  Year 16
Medical School 97-02 02-03 03-04 04-05 05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 09-10 10-11 11-12 12-13 Total
UCL Medical School** 24 7 11 11 11 11 8 8 3 8 10 11  112
Barts & the London School 1 2             1       4
University of Birmingham 1 1                     2
Brighton and Sussex Medical School 0             1         1
Imperial College School of Medicine 4                       4
King’s College London 2 1         1 1 3       8
Leicester Medical School 1                       1
Manchester School of Medicine 0             1         1
St George's School of Medicine 1               1 1     3
Southampton School of Medicine 1                       1
Total Students 35 11 11 11 11 11 9 11 8 9 10 11 137

**formerly Royal Free & University College Medical School

Degrees Awarded

  Years 1-5 Year 6 Year 7 Year 8 Year 9 Year 10 Year 11 Year 12 Year 13

Year 14

Class  97-02 02-03 03-04 04-05  05-06 06-07  07-08  08-09 09-10 10-11 Total
First 5 2 3 1 1 3 3 3 4 2 27
Upper second (2:1) 28 9 7 10 10 7 3 8 3 7 92
Lower second (2:2) 1 0 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 0 6
Withdrawn 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
Total Students 35 11 11 11 11 11 9 11 8 9 127

Other awards

  • Amy Garret - Wellcome Vacation scholarship
  • Dr Kieran Seyan (Bsc 2003-2004) Prize for extra curricular activities RF&UCMS MBBS finals
  • Dr Tom Smith (Bsc 2000-2001) was awarded the Betuel Prize (runner-up) in the University of London MBBS Gold Medal viva
  • Dr Uy Hoang (Bsc 1997-1998) BMJ Clegg Scholar


Students are required to produce an original piece of research as part of the requirement of the degree programme. These are substantial pieces of work (10,000 words and taking up to 6 months to complete). Students follow a research methods course during the first 2 terms and then are expected to come up with an original research question or attach themselves to an existing departmental research project. They must produce a research protocol and take the project through research ethical committee (REC) approval where appropriate. The students collects and analyse data (collected using qualitative or quantitative methodologies) and then write up the project. Students must perform the work themselves, but are closely supervised by a member of the department.

Previous and current student research projects have included:
  • Information framing and the pre natal diagnosis of thallasaemia
  • Patients' views on new patient medicals Doctors' views about health promotion
  • Are GPs involved in a tele-medicine trial representative of all GPs?
  • An exploration of the role of GPs' receptionists (using anthropological methods)
  • GPs' attitudes (in urban and rural areas) to treating IV drug users
  • How people from the Asian community feel about HIV and AIDS
  • Is there an incentive? attitudes of GPs to pharmaceutical reps
  • Primary care services received by the children of people with substance misuse problems
  • Condom use amongst students
  • The needs and concerns of terminally ill cancer patients and their carer, nurse and GP
  • Attitudes of GPs towards changes in the post graduate education system
  • Knowledge and attitudes of GPs to St John's Wort
  • How do medical students access health care?
  • Expectations of patients of GP services
  • The GP's role during non terminal cancer care from the GP's and patients' perspective
  • Anthropological view of a practice's patient group
  • Smoking cessation. GPs view about Zyban (Bupropion)
  • The Homeless' views on alcohol
  • Evaluating the Bromley by Bow arts in health promotion project
  • Use of dieticians by diabetics
  • Confidentiality and computerised records
  • Career intentions of medical students
  • HIV screening uptake in African women in a North London practice
  • Access to primary care for the visually impaired
  • A comparison of HbAiC and attitudes to NIDDM between non attenders and attenders at a diabetic clinic.
  • What are patients views on making same day appointments in general practice?
  • Does NHS Direct act as a broad base of advice and information or only to a subset of the population?
  • What are cultural influences around presentation of domestic violence in general practice
  • The perceived role of asthma clinics in the management of patients in general practice
  • How often do GPs record Family history and what action is taken for patients with a potentially genetic diagnosis?
  • Reasons why parents are not vaccinating against MMR. Where are they getting information? Is the information accurate?
  • Are IV drug users in C&I being offered Hepatitis B screening and vaccination and where?
  • Comparison of patients’ satisfaction with Nurse practitioner/ GP care for same day appointments.
  • The influences on patient compliance with treatment in general practice
  • An exploration of the use by patients of the internet to get medical information before going to see the GP
  • What are patient's health beliefs about inhaled steroids in asthma?
  • What do GP receptionists feel about their work and their work environment?
  • What are health professionals views on the needs of asylum seekers and refugees?
  • Project around GPs views on alternative therapies (probably qualitative)
  • What are the needs of the carers of children with learning difficulties and are these met?
  • To determine the perceptions, hopes and fears of school pupils from under-represented ethnic minorities and other social groups about applying to medical school
  • Does the students' experience of the medical school curriculum influence intended career choice?
  • A qualitative study of the introduction of an "advanced access" (same day appointment) scheme
  • Why are sore throats treated with antibiotics?
  • Who uses acupuncture and why?
  • Patient pathways in NHS walk in centres
  • Emergency contraction – mapping services in Camden
  • The importance of primary care in medical education views of junior and senior medical students
  • Knowledge of sexual health between arts and medical students
  • Consultation rates in ex miners in Nottingham
  • Diabetes and depression
  • Cancer and art therapy
  • Expectation of patients about nurse practitioners
  • Pre-recorded music in the waiting room staff and patient preferences


  1. What are the patient held illness beliefs after a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) and do they determine secondary prevention activities; an exploratory study in a North London General Practice - Stania Kamara and Surinder Singh
    Primary Health Care Research & Development, FirstView Articles: pp.1-10, DOI: 10.1017/S146342361100051X, Published online by Cambridge University Press 24 November 2011

  2. 'Exploring patients' perceptions of living with psoriasis in a London general practice' - Nooriya Uddin and Mary Howman
    Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 4, Issue 2 (2011)

  3. Your Life in Their Pocket: Students’ Behaviors Regarding Confidential Patient Information - Shilpa Jethwa, BSc, MBBS; Pauline Bryant, MBBS, MMEd; Surinder Singh, BM, MSc; Melvyn Jones, MBBS, MSc, MD; Anita Berlin, MBBS, MA; Joe Rosenthal, MBBS, MSc
    Medical Student Education, May 2009; Vol. 41, No. 5

    • Shilpa Jethwa’s project was cited in Medical teacher by Mayo clinic team
  4. Music in the waiting room - Melvyn Jones, Dawn Brittain
    British Journal of General Practice, August 2009; Volume 59, Number 565, pp. 613-614

  5. The relationship between pain intensity and severity and depression in older people: exploratory study - Steve Iliffe, Kalpa Kharicha, Claudia Carmaciu (iBSc 2008/09), Danielle Harari, Cameron Swift, Gehard Gillman and Andreas E Stuck
    BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:54, do1:10.1186/1471-2297-10-54

  6. A study of young peoples' attitudes to opportunistic Chlamydia testing in UK general practice - Joanne Heritage, Melvyn Jones
    Reproductive Health 2008, 5:11, doi:10.1186/1742-4755-5-11

  7. Undergraduate research in primary care: is it sustainable? - Jones M, Singh S, Meakin R
    Primary Health Care Research & Development (2008), 9: 85-95

  8. ‘‘It isn’t just consultants that need a BSc’’: student experiences of an Intercalated BSc in Primary Health Care - M. Jones, S. Singh & M. Lloyd
    Medical Teacher, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2005, pp. 164–168

  9. Where students go when they are ill: how medical students access health care - Hooper, C. and Meakin, R. and Jones, M
    Medical Education 2005; 39: 588–593

  10. "Not a university type": focus group study of social class, ethnic, and sex differences in school pupils' perceptions about medical school - Trisha Greenhalgh, Kieran Seyan, Petra Boynton
    BMJ 2004;328:1541

  11. The standardised admission ratio for measuring widening participation in medical schools: analysis of UK medical school admissions by ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sex - Kieran Seyan, Trisha Greenhalgh, Danny Dorling
    BMJ 2004;328:1545-1546

  12. NHS Direct usage in a GP population of children under 5: Is NHS being used by people with the greatest health need? - Ring F, Jones M
    British Journal of General Practice, 2004, 54, 211-213

  13. Do medical students want to become GPs? - Ali B, Jones M.
    British Journal of General Practice, 2003, 53, 241

  14. What are general practices providing in terms of aid and access for the visually impaired? - Robert Allen & Melvyn Jones
    British Journal of General Practice 2002, 52, 58-9

  15. General practitioner participants in a telemedicine trial: comparisons with their peers - Snowden S, Harrison R, Wallace P.
    Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare 2001; 7: 32–37

  16. Using electronic mail as a method of surveying medical students' opinions and attitudes - B Ali & M Jones
    Medical Education 2002, 36:388–395

  17. An intercalated BSc in Primary Health Care - an outline of a new course - Jones M, Lloyd M, Meakin R
    Medical Teacher, Jan 2001, Vol. 23, No. 1 , Pages 95-97

  18. BSc in Primary Health Care may help address the current gap of some students wishing to intercalate - Jones M

  19. Pilot Study To Detect The Prevalence Of Genetic Disease In Primary Care - Hopkinson I, Garrett A, Modell M, Wallace P, Rosser E, & Mackay J
    Journal Of Medical Genetics, vol. 39, no. Supplement 1, p. 39. 2002

Coming soon

  1. What is the patient care pathway before and after a consultation at the NHS Soho walk in centre? - Azad, S and Singh, S and Jones, M
    Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2004, 58 (SII) , A18 - A18.

Conference presentations

  1. "What do girls targeted by the catch-up vaccination programme think and know about cervical cancer HPV and the HPV vaccine?" - Christine Blane
    Oral presentation: SAPC Madingley conference, February 2010

  2. Exploring GP attitudes towards routinely offering HIV tests in primary care - Sarah Cook
    Oral presentation: The medical Acorn Foundation conference, Manchester, October 2009

  3. [“…that was the year that I learnt to think and to question and to find out things for myself…”] a qualitative review of the role of intercalated BScs in medical education - Jones M, Hutt P, Eastwood S, Singh S.
    Poster presentation: SAPC conference, Dundee / St Andrews, July 2009

  4. An exploration of women's experiences of antenatal maternity services, with a particular focus on emotional well-being - Shreya Karia (iBSc 2008/09)
    Oral presentation: National Student Research conference, 10 Oct 2009 &
    Poster presentation: SAPC conference, Dundee / St Andrews, July 2009

  5. What are the illness beliefs of patients with a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)? Do these beliefs determine secondary prevention activities? An exploratory qualitative study - Kamara S & Singh S
    Oral presentation:
    SAPC Madingley conference

    • Prize-winner for best poster presentation
  6. Medical students’ attitudes towards extension of General Practice Specialty Training to 5 years: a questionnaire study of University College London Medical School students - Ban Al Rawi & Singh S
    Poster presentation:
    SAPC conference, Dundee / St Andrews, July 2009

    • Prize-winner for best day 2 conference poster
  7. Injecting drug users' knowledge of their blood borne virus status: How reliable is it? - Swerdlow D, Chamberlin A, Kemp K, Singh S
    Poster presentation: American Public Health Association Annual Conference, San Diego, Oct 2008 &
    Oral presentation: RCGP Conference, Working with Drug and Alcohol users in Primary Care, Brighton, March 2008

    • Winner - Trainees' Prize in Sexuality and HIV Medicine, Royal Society of Medicine: Sexuality and Sexual Health Section, January 2008
  8. What is the patient care pathway before and after a consultation at the NHS Soho walk in centre? - Azad S, Singh Jones M
    Society for Social Medicine, ASM, Birmingham, September 2004

  9. Is NHS Direct being used by people with the greatest health need? - Ring F, Jones M
    SAPC Madingley conference, January 2003

  10. Does General Practice teaching influence career choice? - Bilal Ali, Melvyn Jones
    SAPC, ASM, Birmingham, 2002

  11. ICC Pilot study to detect the prevalence of genetic disease in primary care - Hopkinson I, Garrett A
    The British Society of Human Genetics conference, 2002

  12. The dynamics of a patient participation group - Naomi Jayanetti
    AUDGP London Regional Conference, Madingley, Cambridge, January 2002

  13. GPs’ attitudes to smoking cessation provision - Matt Grist
    AUDGP London Regional Conference, Madingley, Cambridge, January 2002

  14. "It isn't just consultants that need a BSc" students experiences of the intercalated BSc in primary health care - M Jones, S Singh, Lloyd M
    AUDGP London Regional Conference,
    Madingley, Cambridge, January 2002

  15. The dynamics of a patient participation group - Jayanetti N, Singh S
    The International Social Anthropology Conference at Brunel University, 2002

  16. Primary care services received by the children of people with substance misuse problems - S Jayasooriya, McCallum, K Kemp
    Faculty of Public Health Medicine (of the Royal College of Physicians) 2001 Annual Scientific Meeting, Glasgow, June 2001 &
    AUDGP London Regional Conference,
    Madingley, Cambridge, February 2001

  17. Attitudes of general practitioners towards pharmaceutical representatives - Dogra D
    AUDGP London Regional Conference, Madingley, Cambridge, February 2001

  18. General practitioner participants in a telemedicine trial: comparisons with their peers - Snowden S, Harrison R, Wallace P
    Royal Free & University College Medical School, GP Tutors Conference, 1999

  19. Intercalated BSc in primary health care - experiences of the first intake - Jones M, Lloyd M, Meakin R, Modell M, Helman C
    AUDGP, Edinburgh, 1998


Extract from Which intercalated BSc? The alternative prospectus...

“I would totally recommend doing your intercalated degree in Primary Care. I came down from Manchester Medical School to spend a year in London between my 4th and final years, because I wanted to be a GP and thought it would be good to explore the area further, and had heard that you could intercalate in Primary Care at UCL. It turned out to be one of the most happy and fulfilling years of my life, where I learnt a lot, had fantastic classmates, and had enough spare time to explore the capital.

The things I loved about my BSc in Primary Care:

  • The teaching is seminar-based. With a small class, there is always an informal atmosphere. The tutors are approachable, kind people who get everyone involved. You can never get bored in the seminars because they involve animated debate and discussion.
  • It is extremely well run. All your core background reading is provided for you (photocopied), which means preparation for seminars is stress-free. The course administrator Sandra helped us sort out any problems we had about any area of the course – there is always someone to turn to with questions.
  • The work and essays are nicely spread over the year.
  • It is a very sociable course. With the seminar format it is easy to get to know new friends quickly.
  • Unlike in Medicine, in the BSc year there is enough time to look into issues in more depth. You are encouraged to think and analyse, rather than just assimilate and move on. For example, in Primary Care we looked at diverse issues such as whether obesity is an illness; the impact of computers on a GP’s communication; and how to read research papers properly and judge their quality.
  • You get a whole day a week in a GP practice. Your level of involvement in patient care is tailored to you, so it doesn’t matter if you do this BSc after 2nd or 4th yea – everyone gains: for the 2nd years it’s a head start, and for the 4th years it’s a welcome breath of fresh air before heading towards finals and foundation training.
  • Every module is relevant to your future career as a doctor.

Having studied Primary Care for a year I feel more ready to be a junior doctor – the extra clinical exposure was useful. I also had more practice at doing presentations, and got better at expressing myself both verbally and in writing. The course also gave me a deeper academic understanding of General Practice and Public Health. I have come out of the year enthused and energised to start my career in Medicine.”
Elizabeth Woolley (iBSc student 2008-09)

“After reading the information about all the iBSc courses available at UCL, I knew that Primary Healthcare was the one for me. I waited until after my second year of clinics to intercalate and I felt that this iBSc was the most clinically relevant and therefore the one I was going to enjoy the most. However, this iBSc attracts students from different stages of the medicine course. A few of us were intercalating after 2 years of clinics, some after their first year of clinics and the rest after their pre-clinical phase. For each of us, this iBSc added something that no other iBSc could have done: For me it was the chance to undertake a clinically relevant iBSc.

Some people believe that this course is only for those who want to be GPs. I’m living proof that this is not necessarily the case! “The Consultation” and “The Patient, Family and Illness” modules covered themes that as future doctors you should be aware of, regardless which branch of medicine you eventually go into. Plus having knowledge of the structure and future of the primary healthcare sector is always important, as any changes will have implications on the rest of the health system.

As a clinical student, what appealed to me the most were the weekly visits to a GP practice. Every student gets attached to a GP tutor for the year and every week you spend the day with them. For us clinical students, this was very useful as it helped maintain our clinical knowledge and ensured we didn’t get rusty with our history taking and examination skills. For the pre-clinical students, it gave them a little taster of what clinics would be like and a bit of an advantage over their peers.

The course has 5 modules as well as a research project. The seminars of the 5 modules are spread over the first 2 terms. During these 2 terms you decide what you want to do for your research project and make a start on it. After the Easter holiday you have a week for exams and then you have a whole month to purely concentrate on your research project (which will be the bane of all iBSc students’ lives…believe me!). This format is different to most other courses where they hand in their project first and then sit exams. Personally I prefer the way Primary Healthcare had it – can’t imagine having to do a project whilst worrying about revision at the same time!

Although we had to go in most days, we tended to have either the morning or the afternoon off. Occasionally we got the whole day off! All iBSc courses give student some time off to “work hard, play hard” but I seemed to “purely play and work extremely hard just before deadlines and exams” (I really wouldn’t recommend my idleness to anyone – it resulted in a few sleepless nights and vows I would work harder next time!)

The department itself houses some of the most supportive and friendliest staff you will ever meet and their doors were always open to me if I ever needed advice or help with anything! Plus the department has free printing and photocopying for their students, which you’ll soon realise is a blessing in disguise in your iBSc year! The department also catered for our caffeine addictions by providing us with copious amounts of tea and coffee, which we would drink during our seminars and group-based discussions. We also took it in turns to make cakes for our “Cake Fridays” – a weekly tradition that we hope will continue for years to come!

If I still haven’t managed to sell this iBSc to you or you’re still unsure whether it’s for you, I’ve devised a series of questions that may help:

  • Do you enjoy having interactive, group-based discussions and voicing your opinion on topics in a supportive and friendly environment?
  • Do you want to gain a better understanding about the structure of the primary healthcare sector, its future and how it may affect your subsequent practice as a doctor?
  • Do you want to learn the art of having an effective consultation and improve your communication skills?
  • Do you FINALLY want to get your head around how to critically appraise a paper (Not only does it come up in finals, but as a doctor you will constantly critically appraise papers so it is an important skill!)
  • Would endless hours in a lab, looking at cells under a microscope bore you?
  • Are you (like me) too scared of mice to even do research on them?!?!?!?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then I would say an iBSc in Primary Healthcare is the one for you!
Sally El-Ghazali (iBSc student 2008-09)

Keen to spend a year pipetting test tubes in a laboratory? Burning to find out more about subunits of the GABA receptor? Yearning to spend more quality time with your favourite biochemistry text books? No!! Well, may be you’d be interested in doing a course that is actually relevant to medicine and may even make you a better doctor?

Primary healthcare is a broad course incorporating elements such as diverse areas of medicine, population studies and anthropology. Small group discussions mean that seminars are often very open to differences of opinion- and unlike hard sciences, there is often not a single "right" answer! The course begins with an overview of primary care in the UK compared with other countries. Other modules include "The Consultation" which examines communication skills, "The Patient, the Family and the illness" (touching on some aspects of sociology and anthropology based mainly at the Whittington), and "Public health and epidemiology" which has mercifully few statistics in it.

One whole day per week is devoted to clinical work at a GP practice- an excellent opportunity to maintain your vast clinical knowledge(!) or to learn new skills with which to amaze your friends if you are a pre clinical student. There is also fieldwork research projects towards the end of the year, the subject of which is entirely at the student’s discretion. Previous examples includes attitudes of minorities to HIV and condom use in university students!

Although the IBSc is aimed at 1st or 2nd year clinical students, it is also offered to pre-clinical students. The equivalent of one or half unit in any other IBSc (timetable permitting) can be studied in replacement for the consultation module. This year’s pre clinical students are combining some Pharmacology and Physiology as subsidiary units. Also available to non-UCL students, this IBSc is a chance to study with non-medics.
Josh Brostoff & Vicky Barnard (iBSc student 1999-00)

Statement about iBSc in Primary Care and a short Biography

I undertook an intercalated BSc in Primary Care and Population Sciences at UCL in 1999/2000. This preceded my final clinical year at Imperial College School of Medicine. On paper, the year provided me with two very important CV points- a respectable upper second class honours degree and, some years later, publication of an original research paper arising from the qualitative research I conducted for my BSc dissertation. In more personal terms, I benefited enormously from the opportunity to take time to explore aspects of medical practice and patient behaviour that can easily be neglected during undergraduate training. Modules regarding critical appraisal and fundamental research skills provided me with a sound foundation for postgraduate research – I am increasingly grateful for this knowledge and experience. The course was highly interactive, and seminar based and enjoyment and success therefore relied on participation of all students in discussions and was sensitive to particular group dynamics.

Weekly sessions in a general practice helped with maintenance of my clinical skills, but in my case, did not propagate an interest in GP as a future career pathway. I graduated from ICSM in 2001 and completed general medical SHO posts at St. Mary’s and the Royal Brompton Hospitals before securing a Respiratory SPR training number in the Severn deanery in 2006. I am currently engaged in a period of full time clinical research in pleural disease which will lead to an MD and am due to complete my training in respiratory and general internal medicine, securing my CCT in 2012. The opportunity to spend time in a primary care setting, and to study aspects of health service organisation and epidemiology has certainly been relevant to my career in secondary care and the BSc often stimulates positive interest and discussion at interviews, not least because it is a contrast to the well beaten track of preclinical pure science degrees and provides far more scope for discussion.
Clare Hooper (iBSc student 1999-00)

Other Feedback

Dr Maria Karretti (iBSc student 1997-08) published in the BMJ and described the course as follows, "(it) was probably the best decision I ever made". Overall she says "My IBSc year was also a welcome release from the conveyor belt of the norm. It allowed me to stop and really think about general practice as a true vocation, rather than just a career".


Dr Cecil Helman

Dr Cecil Helman, Senior Lecturer in the UCL Research Department of Primary Care & Population Health died peacefully on 15th June 2009. See here for obituary.

A memorial celebration of his life was held on 25th February 2010. Transcripts of the proceedings are available here:

  1. Prof. Gerald Mars
  2. Prof. Sir Andy Haines
  3. Hilary Callan
  4. Prof. Michael Modell
  5. Prof. Ian Robinson
  6. Clive Sinclair
  7. Prof. Roland Littlewood

Contact us

For more information with regards to applying to the Intercalated BSc Programme please click here to contact the medical school.

For more information about our iBSc in Primary Health Care, please contact:

Dr Surinder Singh
Course Director
Senior Lecturer in General Practice
Tel: 020 7794 0500 ext. 36740
Mrs Sandra Gerrard
Course Administrator
Tel: 020 7830 2599
Fax: 020 7472 6871 


Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health
Upper Third Floor
UCL Medical School (Royal Free Campus)
Rowland Hill Street

Contact details for CBT staff can be found in the People section of this site.


The nearest Underground station is Belsize Park, on the Northern Line (Edgware Branch) and situated about 10 minutes walk from the department.

The nearest London Overground train station is Hampstead Heath and situated about 5 minutes walk from the department.

Buses 24, 46, 168, 268 and C11 stop in the vicinity.

Location Map

View UCL-PCPH in a larger map

Directions to the department

Community Based Teaching is based within the Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health at the Royal Free campus of UCL.

Click here for a map to the department from the Rowland Hill Street entrance.

Click here for a Royal Free Hospital location map.

Click here for UCL Maps, including the UCL campuspublic transport guide, and iPhone application.