Around 250 students were eligible for early graduation based on their exam results over the past five years, with approximately a further 70 students being listed as 'pending' and requiring further assessment to pass.
Anticipated exams in May and June have been cancelled and the students who graduated early can choose be employed in a FiY1 (Foundation Interim Doctor) role for a few months until their proper F1 doctor role starts later in the summer. A Newcastle Medic confirmed that most final year students are choosing to take the FiY1 route "as we are all keen to help out in this crisis" following the NHS's emergency drive to recruit medic and healthcare professionals, including 5500 medical students.
As FiY1 doctors, these graduates will be provisionally registered by the General Medical Council (GMC) and can perform functions including prescribing medicine, ordering tests and writing in a patient's notes, but they will not be able to perform the full clinical duties of a doctor and cannot care for acutely unwell patients without direct supervision. To be able to fully undertake a doctor’s duties, these graduates must be registered by the GMC, which does not usually happen until August, however it is thought that this registration process may be fast-tracked following medical staff pressures. A spokesperson from the GMC described how these early graduates “must be supervised to be safe and act within their competence. They must not be asked to carry out any duties of a doctor”.
The Medical Schools Council urged the UK’s 42 medical schools to take all possible measures to ensure the graduation of final year students, even if they are unable to sit final clinical or written assessments, so they can be provisionally registered by the GMC to start working as doctors as soon as possible.
In a letter written to these students, Vice-Chancellor Chris Day recognised that they are "about to embark on [their] careers as doctors amid an extraordinarily challenging time for our National Health Service. The coming weeks and months will truly be a baptism of fire for many of you...
"The abrupt conclusion of your University studies is certainly not what any of you could have expected, but it has placed you in a unique position. In response to the request from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to add vital capacity in our hospitals by moving final year medical students into clinical practice at the earliest opportunity, we have brought forward your graduation to allow you to start work as soon as possible."
The University announced last month that all summer graduation ceremonies, originally set for July, will be postponed. Though no date has been formally released, it is rumoured that the 2020 graduates will join the winter congregation ceremonies in December. The postponement of summer graduation ceremonies includes the fast-tracked Medical students too, who have instead been invited to participate in the University’s first ever online medical graduation ceremony, whether they can take the Hippocratic Oath alongside fellow graduates if desired.
Other universities which have implemented similar policies include Bristol, East Anglia, Lancaster, Hull-York Medical School, UCL and all 394 final year Medics at King's College London.