Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK

Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) is a medical school formed as a partnership of the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex. Like other UK medical schools it is based on the principles and standards of ‘Tomorrow’s Doctors’, an initiative by the General Medical Council outlining the role of British practitioners. Since opening in 2003, BSMS has produced more than 1,000 new doctors who now work across the UK.

The first intake of students began their five-year medical degree programmes in September 2003. The school was opened as a part of the British Government’s attempts to train more doctors, which also saw Peninsula Medical School, University of East Anglia Medical School, Hull York Medical School and Keele University Medical School open their doors.

The school is one of a number of new medical schools formed in the UK following the Labour Governments 1997 election victory. Students are technically full members of both universities with access to both sets of facilities. The school gained its licence in 2002, its initial course being a heavily modified version of the University of Southampton course. It admits approximately 136 students per year with all of them being based for the first two years on the split campus at Falmer.

Since then, it has become one of the most popular medical schools in the country. According to UCAS statistics, 2005 saw BSMS as the most competitive medical school to gain a place at. In 2017, the National Student Survey ranked the school as 1st in the UK for student satisfaction.

The University of Sussex is situated in the village of Falmer, just out of Brighton and has direct pedestrian access into the South Downs National Park. Falmer is roughly 9 minutes by train from Brighton City Centre. The campus is situated across the A27 and South Coast railway line from the Sussex Falmer site. Both the Brighton and Sussex Falmer sites have accommodation, shopping facilities and other ancillary services.

The curriculum is a blend of both progressive and traditional teaching methods, based around lectures, practicals and small group based learning mostly taking place on the Univeristy of Sussex campus. BSMS does not use Problem Based Learning.

The University of Brighton provides the professional aspects of the course through its faculties of health, sciences and engineering using experience from other healthcare courses such as nursing and midwifery. In contrast Sussex provides primarily biological science and anatomy teaching for which it is better suited due to the close proximity of the Sussex portion of the medical school to the University of Sussex school of life sciences ‘John Maynard Smith’ building. Also located close by are the medical research building and the genome damage stability and control centre (an MRC research facility).

The medical school requires dissection of human cadavers as a compulsory part of the course. This means the course is more anatomically based than that of many other modern UK medical schools. As well as the emphasis on anatomy, BSMS also gives early clinical exposure, with students from preclinical years regularly going on placements in both the primary and secondary care sectors.

Students will undertake a range of clinical placements, mainly at the Royal Sussex but extending into other trust and primary care settings. The University Hospitals NHS Trust provides a full range of clinical specialties with major centres in cardiology/cardiovascular surgery, cancer, renal dialysis, neurosurgery and HIV medicine. In 2017, there were 12 hospitals affiliated with the school.

The clinical placements are served in general practices and teaching hospitals throughout the south-east, including many in Kent, and all Sussex hospitals, such as the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Medical students have General Practice placements in years 1, 2, 4 and 5 . In early years, the focus is on practicing communication skills and on learning in the clinical environment. In later years, the focus becomes clinical skills, managing undifferentiated symptoms, minor illness and chronic disease. In the final year, students carry out student-led surgeries, under GP supervision. In these sessions, students see patients independently and start to draw up management plans.

The Department of Primary care and Public health is very active in research, and there are opportunities for students to get involved in health service and clinical research projects as part of their medical training. There is also an active student GP Society.

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