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A good doctor is more than someone who has the necessary core medical knowledge and skills. It is someone who is professional, who can communicate with patients and who works effectively as part of the healthcare team. In the same way, a good candidate for medicine is more than someone who has met the academic entry criteria. Doing so is only the start of the process.

Medical schools put a great deal of work into identifying the right characteristics in candidates. It is therefore a major part of the Medical Schools Council’s role to help medical schools collaborate in matters of selection. Leading this is the Selection Alliance, which acts as a national forum for enhancing the selection methods used. These methods vary between medical schools.

Variation in selection

The regulator of the UK medical profession is the General Medical Council. It defines the required outcomes which medical graduates must meet in order to become registered and practise legally as doctors. This means that there is a defined set of ‘minimum competencies’ which medical schools work towards in educating their students, and they bear these competencies in mind when they select students. The regulator also sets standards for the delivery of medical education and training, stating that selection must be open, fair and transparent.

UK medical schools are free to set their own policies in how they select their students. While they have standards to meet, including being clear in their processes and the qualities they are seeking, they are able to vary their policies according to the needs and objectives of a given medical school. The result is that each year’s medical graduates meet the standard required to safely enter workplace training while as a cohort they retain the dynamism and varied skill-base which will help them respond to the changing needs of UK healthcare. This all starts with selection.