The University of Southampton
Medical Education Development Unit

BM6 Programme

Introduction

Southampton developed its BM6 programme, a six year Widening Access to Medicine programme with a Year 0, in 2002 to meet both the national agenda of widening participation to medicine from more diverse backgrounds as well as one of the medical school's own strategic aims.

It followed a successful bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in 2000 for additional medical student places. 

HEFCE, the Department of Health and other interested organisations such as the BMA and the Council of Heads of Medical Schools (CHMS) have indicated the need to reduce the under-representation of poorer socioeconomic groups in medical schools.

‘The social, cultural and ethnic background of medical graduates should reflect broadly the diversity of those they are called upon to serve' (CHMS 2004).

Dr Sally Curtis

Dr Curtis talks about one of the longest running widening access programmes in the UK.

Find out more

Key facts

Progression from Year 0 to Year 1 is about 90% and academic performance in Year 0 strongly correlates with future academic performance

As junior doctors, ex BM6 students are being successful in gaining training places for a range of specialities, many staying local to Southampton or returning to their home areas

Whilst the BM6 programme certainly adds each year to the number of doctors coming from poorer socioeconomic groups, hence meeting its aims and the national agenda, the numbers still only represent a very small percentage of the total number of new doctors qualifying in the UK each year

Nationally students from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds are still very much underepresented in medicine

National Acclaim for BM6

Since its inception the BM6 has received national recognition as an example of good practice of an innovative widening access programme.

It was featured as a case study in the 2002 UUK Report ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream' and in the 2005 follow-up UUK Report ‘Embedding Widening Participation in Higher Education'.

It also featured in The Department of Health's report: 'Medical Schools: delivering the doctors of the future'; London 2004.

In the BMJ 2011 paper 'Widening access to medical education for underrepresented socioeconomic groups: population based cross sectional analysis of UK data, 2002-6' the authors Jonathan Mathers et al concluded that 'efforts of the 3 schools offering foundation programmes (of which Southampton is one) seem to have been far more successful in diversifying the future medical profession than other initiatives'.

The BM6 Students

The BM6 has been running successfully for 15 years. The 16th cohort are due to enter the medical school in October 2017.

Over 130 BM6 students are now qualified doctors. The first cohort, who graduated in 2008, are now in the fifth year of their specialist training for medicine, surgery or general practice.

Many of the BM6 students intercalate and at least two have undertaken a Masters course during their time at medical school.

For the first few years the BM6 started as a small pilot mainly recruiting students from local schools and colleges. It is now a hugely oversubscribed programme with students applying from all over the UK via UCAS. There were approximately 600 applications for the latest cohort's 30 places.

BM6 students are our best ambassadors. They are able to connect socially & virtually with their peers from diverse communities using social networking sites & electronic forums, sharing their experiences and encouraging them to apply.

Feedback from students indicates that the BM6 Year 0 curriculum is really well matched to their needs in later years, that the health care placements are particularly valued in developing professionalism and that they feel very well supported in their learning.

'I believe the BM6 scheme is essential in encouraging those into medicine who would otherwise not have had the opportunity or believed they had the ability. It has helped my confidence & belief in myself that I can do it & it's great to see my other friends from BM6 grow in the same way. I hope to be a GP when I have finished studying'Karen Carter 2006.

Karen is now qualified and is in the third year of her GP training in Southampton.

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