Introduction: Most medical schools in the UK have been engaged in major curriculum reform based on their premises of what might improve undergraduate medical education. In 1994 the course at the medical school of the University of Manchester changed to an integrated course using problem-based learning throughout and with increased emphasis on community-based medical education. This study explores whether the new curriculum has produced any differences in perceptions of how well graduates are prepared for the role of pre-registration house officer.
Methods: A postal questionnaire was used to survey 1998 Manchester graduates (traditional course) and 1999 Manchester graduates (new course), three months into their first pre-registration house officer placement. A similar questionnaire was sent to the educational supervisors who were supervising the graduates. The questionnaire was designed to measure perceptions of levels of preparedness for the role of pre-registration house officer, using a list of broad areas of competence and specific skills listed in the General Medical Council's 'The New Doctor'.
Results: Graduates rated the new course significantly more effective for 12 of the 19 broad competences and eight of the 13 specific skills that were listed. The 'new' graduates rated their understanding of disease processes lower than the 'traditional' graduates, but there was no difference in the ratings given by the educational supervisors for this. Overall the educational supervisors rated the new course as better preparing graduates in five of the competences.
Conclusions: Overall, the evaluation shows that a major change in curriculum approach has changed the profile of the perceived preparedness of graduates for entering professional practice.