Teaching about medically unexplained symptoms at medical schools in the United Kingdom

Med Teach. 2012;34(4):327-9. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.660219.


Background: Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are very common in primary and secondary care. They are often inappropriately managed, resulting in potential harm to patients as well as wasted resources. To bring about change, it is important that newly qualified doctors are equipped with the skills to manage MUS effectively. We do not know if and how this topic is currently taught at U.K. medical schools.

Aim: To document whether, how and when this topic is currently taught in U.K. medical schools. To assess potential barriers to this teaching and consider how it can be improved.

Methods: A questionnaire survey emailed to GP and psychiatry teaching leads at all 31 U.K. medical schools.

Results: Responses received from 24/31 schools showed that MUS teaching across U.K. medical schools is very variable in terms of amount, method, assessment and integration of the teaching within the curriculum. Most respondents identified a need for a greater quantity of cross-discipline teaching and for greater value to be attributed to the topic.

Conclusion: Inconsistent and disparate teaching across medical schools may lead to very variable practice amongst qualified clinicians. In order to overcome this, consensus is needed as to how and where in the undergraduate curriculum there should be teaching about MUS.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • General Practice / education*
  • General Practice / methods
  • Humans
  • Psychiatry / education*
  • Psychiatry / methods
  • Somatoform Disorders*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Teaching / methods
  • United Kingdom