Director of Education and Standards, Professor Colin Melville, explains how our updated Outcomes for graduates, will better prepare newly qualified doctors for medical practice on the frontline.

We first released our educational outcomes for medical school graduates in 2009. Tomorrow’s Doctors, renamed in 2016 as Outcomes for graduates, set out what we expect a newly qualified doctor to be able to do when they enter practice.

The outcomes haven’t changed in nine years, yet the world we live in is constantly changing. The expectations and needs of patients are different. The expectations of medical students are different. The techniques and technologies of healthcare are different.

I know from my time as Head of Lancaster Medical School, that medical schools across the UK have worked hard to keep up with these changes and ensure their curricula are relevant and reflective of modern practice. But it’s not always been easy for them to innovate and progress while they’ve still been tied to delivering outcomes set in 2009. Of course, many topics are as relevant today as they were in 2009, or even 1909, and might still be relevant in 3009! Others, however, needed to reflect a decade of progress, change and discovery.

A decade of change

That is why last year we reviewed our Outcomes for graduates. With support from a panel of experts, we went through each outcome. We asked whether each was still relevant. If it was, we asked whether it needed to change, if it should be unchanged, amended or removed. Then we asked if we needed new outcomes to reflect how healthcare is provided across each of the four UK countries, or to account for developments in science and technology in the last decade.

Then we invited doctors, medical schools and students, educators and patients to share their opinions. We had over 300 responses from across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Some covered the entire document and some focused on areas of interest. Every line has been scrutinised, tested and debated.

From the first day of practice

The result is an updated Outcomes for graduates that we have published this week. While it is longer than the previous version, it is designed to better support medical students to develop the knowledge and skills required for modern practice and the increasing complexity of healthcare, from their first day as a newly qualified doctor.

It contains more outcomes linked to community care including general practice, and mental health, reflecting the changing focus of health services.

It contains more on long-term conditions and ‘multiple morbidities’ (patients with more than one health issue at the same time).

It also reflects the feedback we heard from those who took part. While it couldn’t include everything that was suggested, we considered and took account of every view.

Supporting medical schools to implement change

While the outcomes are available now, schools have until the summer of 2020 to implement the new requirements; and only then – at the start of the 2020/21 academic year – will medical students go through programmes fully mapped to the updated outcomes. However, in many cases, the new outcomes are already being taught. The flexibility that medical schools have in setting their own curriculum means that schools across the four countries of the UK have kept pace with the developments of recent years.

We recognise that change can be challenging but the updated outcomes provide an opportunity to ensure that UK medical schools and students continue to be at the forefront of the highest quality medical education and training.