On a recent Sunday, Eilidh Garrett worked a six-hour shift at her part-time job in auto finance. After a four-hour break, the third-year medical student then left for a 12-hour night internship.
Every week for Garrett, 25, is an exercise in balancing working part-time to make ends meet, while struggling to prioritize his studies. She has little downtime and ended up in hospital due to financial stress leading up to recent exams.
“I couldn’t say at work that I couldn’t come this week because I would lose my job,” Garrett said. Without financial support from her parents, her £10 hourly wage barely matches her £4,000 credit card debt.
“It feels like we’re constantly looking for the NHS trying to be there and be doctors, but the government isn’t looking after us,” she said.
She is not alone. In April, Garrett and three other medical students launched a campaign on Twitter, #LiveableNHSBursary, calling for a review of the financial aid that medical students receive during their training. Since then, students have flocked online to share their stories of financial hardship, often detrimental to their studies and careers.
In their first four years, undergraduate medical students in London – like other students – can access loans of up to £12,382. But they are placed in a unique way in their final two years: students can apply for a means-tested NHS grant of up to £3,191 per academic year and a non-means-tested grant of £1,000.
Additional allowances are given to those living outside London or with their parents. Medical students in their final years can also access a reduced maintenance loan from Student Finance England of up to £3,354.
The financial shortfall has left many students struggling to complete their studies, amid rampant inflation and a shortage of doctors.
“I don’t really understand why the system, where we are running out of NHS doctors year after year…why are we putting students off not being able to complete a degree?” asked Anna Sigston, a medical student at the Doctors’ Association UK.
Under the hashtag, a student says he was working 25 hours a week on top of his 30 hour internship. Another said she had worked 10 jobs to succeed in medical school. Even those who do not face the same financial burden are draw attention funding shortfalls.
Khadija Meghrawi, co-chair of the BMA medical students committee, said it was a failure of the government.
“For years we have heard of students using food banks, over-indebted and exhausted from working long hours alongside their studies. No student should have to choose between completing their education and making ends meet,” she said.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are committed to supporting medical students in England throughout all years of study and to maintaining funding arrangements for all nursing students at all times. of health under study.”
MPs also joined the calls. In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Action, Labor’s Clive Lewis said: “All medical students must have the same chances of completing their studies, regardless of their family and personal income.”
The concerns recall 2017, when NHS grants for midwives, nurses and other health professions were replaced by student loans. This led to a shortage of nurses, fewer course applications, and the government reintroduced subsidies years later.
For Garrett, the experience changed his attitude towards being a doctor.
“I love the NHS and wanted to do this specifically because of the NHS. However, if the government refuses to treat us properly, even this early in our careers, it doesn’t bode well for the future,” Garrett said.
According to a 2018 survey, four in 10 medical students in the UK said they or someone they knew had considered dropping out due to financial pressures – although the actual number of struggling students is masked by the stigma attached to discussing difficulties.
According to a study by the London School of Economics in 2017, almost 73% of doctors came from professional and managerial backgrounds, and less than 6% from working-class backgrounds.
As a qualified doctor now working in Cumbria, the specter of Anna Harvey Bluemel’s financial troubles still haunts her.
“There are probably more medical students than ever who are in dire financial straits due to the rising cost of living,” said Harvey Bluemel, who received £10,000 in financial aid during his studies in London. “That funding was insufficient, and always has been insufficient.”
She added: “It hurts the profession. And I think that hurts patients because our medical profession does not reflect the makeup of the society we serve in the UK,” she added.
“A lot of efforts are being made to remove some of the barriers that working-class students in particular face,” she said. “But I think the idea that once you’re in, you’re just like everyone else. And that’s just not the case.