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The responsibilities of medical schools to support students with mental health conditions

  • Medical schools should create an environment where mental health is openly discussed to try to reduce the stigma around it.
  • Medical schools should put preventive measures in place to promote good mental health and well-being in their students.
  • Medical schools should explain that mental health conditions are common in medical students and that support is available. In almost every case, a mental health condition does not prevent a student from completing his or her course and continuing a career in medicine.
  • Medical schools must understand the boundaries in which they work when supporting students. Medical schools must not treat students themselves or manage the treatment that students receive. This means that doctors in the medical school must not be responsible for the clinical care of individual students, and any treatment that students receive must be managed separately from the medical school.
  • Medical schools should make sure that their policies about student confidentiality are clear and based around GMC guidance. These policies should be made available to students.
  • Medical schools must encourage their students to seek appropriate support from their general practitioner (GP) or support services available within the medical school or university. They should make sure that they are able to refer students to an experienced occupational health service.
  • Medical schools should train staff to recognise the early signs of mental health conditions and to identify when students are struggling. This is so they can advise them on what support is available within the medical school or university.
  • The most appropriate way of handling a student with a mental health condition is through supportive measures, which do not need to be put in place through fitness to practise processes. Where a student is behaving unprofessionally and also has a mental health condition, then their behaviour may need to be addressed by fitness to practise processes in tandem with support.
  • If a medical school believes that a student will not be able to cope with a career in medicine, the relevant staff members should talk to the student about the concerns. The medical school should also seek independent medical advice about the student’s condition. If this does not resolve the situation, the medical school should consider using fitness to practise processes to get an independent decision on the student’s future.
  • This guidance concentrates on providing advice on supporting students with mental health concerns but much of the guidance applies equally to students who have a physical disability.