Abstract Title
What were students overall experiences of the Widening Participation in Medicine (Newham Doc Route) Scheme from 2008 2013?


Benedicta Sarfo-Adu


9JJ Admission to Medicine and Postgraduate Training Programmes


Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry Queen Mary University


Widening Participation:

  • Students from lower socio-economic background remain under-represented in medical schools in the UK. Students from lower social background (classes IV and V) are less likely to apply to medicine compared to those of higher social background (Classes I and II) [1] [2] [3]
  • Widening participation is an umbrella term that covers the various facets of participation in Higher Education (HE), which includes fair access and social mobility. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) suggests all students with the potential to benefit from successful participation in HE should have the opportunity to do so. [2]
  • WP aims to address the whole ‘life-cycle’ of a student from pre-entry, admission, study support, and successful completion at undergraduate level to employment or progression to further education. [2]

Newham Doc Route Scheme, now known as Barts Health Doc Route Scheme is a one year pre-medical Widening Participation (WP) programme run in partnership with Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

The aim of this WP programme is to widen access to A-level students whose social or academic background may have prevented them from accessing medical school through the normal route.

Candidates with a minimum of CCC grades at A-levels are considered compared to the usual candidates with AAA grades at A-levels. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]


Summary of Results
Summary of Work

This study uses qualitative research method to analyse the quality of the widening participation Newham Doc programme. 10 students participated

Inclusion criteria sampling method was used based on students who:

  • All completed the Newham Doc Scheme between years 2009 to 2013
  • All attended Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • Some are not currently at Barts and the London SMD but completed to Newham Doc Scheme

There was ethics approval. Data was audio recorded on the one-to-one semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions and written up.


The scheme provided students who otherwise will not have the opportunity to study medicine and provided vast learning opportunities. Students did identify that the delivery of the programme maybe slightly flawed, as many were unaware of the purpose of the scheme therefore leading to students overlooking potential learning opportunities that only become apparent when in clinical years of their medical training.

Although this is a case study of one WP scheme, the findings may resonate elsewhere and help improve approaches to WP. BNS-A is a former participant of this WP scheme therefore this study required particular attention to reflexivity. 

Take-home Messages

Gathering former participants’ perceptions, particularly through long-term follow-up, deepens understanding of such educational programmes.

Since the scheme is quite specific and very different to other widening participation schemes, data cannot be generalised to other WP schemes, it can be adopted as part of a WP curriculum.


There are three approaches medical schools across the UK use to attract and secure students based on wider range of skills rather than purely academic merits.

  2. Contextual data e.g. first person in family to go to university, having free school meals or from a lower socio-economic background
  3. Offer foundation year programmes to applicants including those that did not study science at A-levels

All students wanting to study medicine at university must show that they have undertaken some form of relevant work experience as part of their application. However, it is evident work experience opportunities are ad hoc and unstructured which favours young people with connections such as children with parents or family members who are doctors. [9] [10] [11]

Summary of Results

1.  Widespread Appreciation

‚Äč“I think it was a really good opportunity for me to actually choose the scheme...” (PR q.3)


I was given a life line yeah” (PI3 q.3)

potentially my whole career gone, and I didn’t decide on doing something else, um so yeah I was really you know relieved that I got something out of it.” (PI3 q.3)


“I’m really glad that I took a year out, and I’m really glad that I didn’t get my Chemistry grade and I did this, maybe it was fate or something, yeah, it just gave me a lot more yeah a lot more confidence.” (PI3 q.19) 

2. Awareness of the scheme

“I actually didn’t know about it and didn’t specifically apply for it. I was called, erm, around A Level results week …erm, asking whether I wanted to participate in the Newham Doc Scheme” (PI4 q.3)

3.  Work placements

“Erm, what I mainly remember is my experience in the different erm departments so we had five different departments that we erm were rotating in, erm and I do recollect especially my time at the Pathology Department where I believe I took more of an active role in comparison to the others.” (PI1 q.6)

4. Value and Purposes of the WP scheme’s assessments

“ I think our assessments were about like doctor/patient relationship and that was good because we actually had a PBL based on that in first year” (PFG1 q.10)

5.  Pastoral and academic support  

“I didn’t like the fact that er we didn’t have set teaching... I mean it was horrible because some of the stuff that was said on placement I didn’t understand” (PI6 q.10)




PR = Participant Researcher

PI = Interview Participants

PFG = Focus Group Participants

Summary of Work
Take-home Messages

Future work

There is scope for both quantitative and qualitative research to assess the success rate of the scheme.

Follow-up studies can be extended to former students into their workplace to evaluate the scheme’s impact and also to assess whether widening participation address the whole ‘life-cycle’ of a student as it is intended to.

Other research can be carried out to students who did not progress after first year of medicine to help us understand why they failed, how to prevent failure and if in a different profession, the impact of the WP scheme on their choice. 


  1. Seyan K, Greenhalgh T, Dorling D. The standardised admissions ratio for measuring widening participation in medical schools: analysis of UK medical school admissions by ethnicity, socio-economic status, sex. BMJ 2004;328:1545–6
  2. Higher Education Statistics Agency, HESA Student Record 2002/03 and 2010/11, 2012
  3. Board of Medical Education, British Medical Association. The demography of medical schools: a Discussion. London: BMA 2004
  4. Barts and the London 2013 Policy for Admissions to Undergraduate Programmes in Medicine and Dentistry www.smd.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/courses/57249.doc‎ accessed 10/11/2013
  5. Barts health 2014. Doc Route Scheme http://www.bartshealth.nhs.uk/education/education-delivery/doc-route-scheme/ accessed 10/02/2014
  6. The guardian 2010. A fair chance for all http://www.theguardian.com/publicservicesawards/diversity-equality-newham-university-nhs-trust  accessed 10/02/2014
  7. General Medical Council. Gateways to the professions http://www.gmc-uk.org/Widening_Access_to_Medical_Education_1.0.pdf_25397210.pdf  accessed 23/12/2013
  8. Tower Hamlets Recorder 2010. Celebrating a trail-blazing initiative that changes lives http://www.threcorder.co.uk/content/newham/recorder/news/story.aspx?brand=REConline&category=newsspecialNewham&tBrand=reconline&tCategory=newsspecialnewham&itemid=WeED30%20Jun%202010%2008%3A16%3A53%3A393 accessed 07/01/2014
  9. Holmes D. Eight years’ experience of widening access to medical education. Med Education (2002)36:979–84
  10. Milburn A 2012. Fair access to professional careers: A progress report by the Independent Reviewer on Social mobility and Child Poverty https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/61090/IRFairAccess_acc2.pdf accessed 01/02/2014   accessed 10/12/2013
  11. Leeds University 2010. Access and Community engagement http://www.leeds.ac.uk/ace/PS/A2L.html  accessed 20/12/2013
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