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MDECS explained

17 August 2012

UCL Partners recently secured a contract to be the provider of 12 MDECS postgraduate training courses for healthcare workers in North London. Here, Professor Tim McHugh, Graduate Tutor at UCL’s Faculty of Medical Sciences and academic lead for the SLMS contribution, talks about what this means for UCL.

In-hospital training for UCL Medicine students

Image courtesy of UCL Medical School

What is MDECS?

MDECS (Medical and Dental Education Commissioning System) is the process for commissioning postgraduate training for doctors and dentists. This is led by the Local Education Training Boards (LETBs). In January 2012, UCL Partners (UCLP) won the bid to provide training across North London for 12 specialities in the second phase of MDECS.

How will UCLP’s provision of MDECS differ from previous incarnations?

The fundamental change is that medical trainees will go through discipline-specific, Master's-level programmes which will involve a selection of more generic modules key to operating as a professional. This should make them leaders in their field; we’re talking about creating the leaders of the health service of the future, using UCL’s clinical and research-led expertise to inform the next generation of consultants.

Most people will be on their courses for between three and five years. Although we offer the opportunity for every student to obtain an MSc, not everyone will want to do this because many will have reached a stage in their career where spending time on a Master’s project could be a diversion – we anticipate that a lot of people will close at diploma level. They can drop out at whichever stage they like; the key is that they will have a postgraduate qualification that's recognised everywhere.

Is MDECS training just for doctors and dentists?

MDECS refers specifically to medical and dental training but UCLP are keen to deliver training to a wider group of allied healthcare professionals including, for example, nurses and physiotherapists.

What are the 12 disciplines that will be taught by UCLP?

They are:

  1. Cardiology
  2. Respiratory Medicine
  3. Diabetes and Endocrinology
  4. Geriatric Medicine
  5. Gastroenterology
  6. Neurology, Neurophysiology, and Audiological Medicine
  7. Renal Medicine
  8. Clinical Radiology
  9. Higher Psychiatry - General Adult and Old Age, Psychotherapy, Forensic, Child and Adolescent
  10. Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  11. Trauma and Orthopaedics
  12. Ophthalmology


Will UCL be the only university providing training?

No, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) will also be doing some of the teaching as they are part of UCLP.

How many students will UCLP be taking on as a result of winning the MDECS contract?

Up to 250 students per year, but we're rolling it out slowly so for the academic year 2012-2013 only 130-150 trainees will enter the system.

How much of the training will be done on UCL campus?

The courses will use blended learning, and quite a lot of the teaching will be done in UCL Partner hospitals. The amount of teaching that will be done on campus is hard to judge and will vary from module to module. Some will be delivered to 200 students onsite while others will be done completely as distance learning programmes.

What are the biggest concerns that have been expressed about the project, and what are your thoughts on each of them?

The bidding process was quite quick and there wasn’t a great deal of consultation within the UCL community, leading to anxiety about the feasibility of delivering the programme, so I am keen to allay fears where I can. The aim is for us to have 200 students per year on a five-year programme and some people were concerned about a sudden onslaught of 1,000 extra students, but it won’t be like that as we’re starting with fewer than 200 in the first year – it will be gradual.

Then there’s quality assurance: we need to treat the MDECS trainees like any other UCL Master’s student; it’s all about giving them the same standards, not a ‘UCL MSc Lite’.

There is a certain tension around the fact that we’ll be doing this with Queen Mary. It’s important that we have a true partnership with QMUL rather than UCL ruling the roost.

How much does MDECS training cost?

The fee for the full MSc will be £10,000 because that’s the standard fee for an MSc in UCL’s School of Life and Medical Sciences (SLMS) at the moment. There’s been quite a lot of discussion about how this will be funded and whether the trainees will have to pay the full amount themselves. UCLP is attempting to raise funds externally, so that UCL will get £10,000 per student but the trainees will only pay a proportion of this themselves.

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