Student doctors are demanding a crackdown on the infamous binge-drinking culture that starts in medical schools and goes on to blight many hospital wards and GPs’ surgeries.
A motion to be debated at the British Medical Association’s annual students’ conference in Dundee next week aims to cut the problem by tackling the notorious booze culture before doctors qualify.
Research in Newcastle found medical students’ consumption of alcohol soared as they progressed through their training. Drug use has also risen, with 50% of students experimenting with drugs in the second year of their degrees and 65% in the first year after graduating.
The proposals claim that reducing excessive alcohol consumption by medical students at university will help prevent the unhealthy habits spilling over into their working lives once they have qualified.
The plans, which include curtailing boozy social events and offering better support for students with drink problems, contrast with the heavy drinking culture prevalent among students in Britain’s medical schools.
The move has been welcomed by patients’ groups and politicians, who claim it could help the medical profession being more open about doctors with drink problems. Medical leaders estimate that at least one in 15 doctors, around 13,000 across Britain, abuse drugs and alcohol, putting patients’ lives at risk by treating and even operating on them while still under the influence.
Experts claim the high pressure and often life or death decision-making doctors must deal with has led to a higher than average drink addiction in the profession, despite advanced training on the damage alcohol can do.
Dr Alasdair Young, the vice-chair of the Sick Doctors Trust, which runs a phone helpline for doctors addicted to alcohol and illegal substances, said: “If doctors are to make a difference to the public use of alcohol, they have to lead the way by trailblazing a cultural change. Student doctors are to be commended for doing this.”
Shona Robison, SNP Shadow Health Minister, added: “The responsibility medical students have towards their patients when they get a job means it is highly important that 100% of their attention is on what they are doing.”