Psychology should be valid second science for medical students, psychiatrists say

Press release
04 May 2017
Psychology should be offered as an alternative to a second science by all medical schools, the Royal College of Psychiatrists says in its General Election manifesto launched today (Thurs).

Currently only one medical school, Sheffield, offers psychology as an alternative to a second science or mathematics.

It means many students interested in mental health may be put off from applying to study medicine because they think their interest in psychology will rule them out.

The College believes that an understanding of mental health is integral to being a good doctor and that psychology is as relevant to medicine as physics or mathematics.

All of the UK’s 34 medical schools demand applicants have an A-Level in Chemistry or Biology and some require they have both.

The College fears that some prospective medical students may be put off from applying because they are unaware psychology is an accepted alternative to a second science.

College dean Kate Lovett said: “For years we have been saying that psychology should be seen on a par with the traditional sciences – physics, chemistry and biology.

“Without doubt a strong grasp of mathematics can also be a useful string to a doctor’s bow, but we feel that the best doctors are rounded individuals with a sound understanding of both physical and mental health.

“Our fear is that some potential high calibre medical students may be put off from applying to study medicine because they incorrectly believe that biology and chemistry A-Levels are a must.

“Medicine needs bright young people who are not only curious about the science of how the physical world works but also curious about the science of human behaviour.

“We applaud Sheffield’s decision to offer psychology as a second science and would urge the UK’s other medical schools to follow suit.”

Of the 34 medical schools, three are post-graduate entry only.

On its website, Sheffield medical school says successful candidates will be required to get three As at A-Level, with chemistry being one of those subjects along with one other science (physics/biology), maths or psychology.


Notes to editors

About the Royal College of Psychiatrists

We are the professional medical body responsible for supporting over 18,000 psychiatrists in the UK and internationally.

We set standards and promote excellence in psychiatry and mental healthcare.

We lead, represent and support psychiatrists nationally and internationally to governments and other agencies.

We aim to improve the outcomes of people with mental illness, and the mental health of individuals, their families and communities. We do this by working with patients, carers and other organisations interested in delivering high quality mental health services.

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