Recruitment of UK medical school graduates into psychiatry is in crisis as I write this. Each year, it seems that we persuade fewer and fewer of our own trainees to follow us into a specialty that we know can offer frustration alongside fascination, but that is, overall, a challenging and rewarding career choice. The College has followed the decline in interest shown by our own medical school graduates through the falling proportion of candidates for the MRCPsych with a primary medical qualification from the UK. This varies between individual examination sittings but is currently running at between 10% and 20%. Where should we look to understand what is going wrong as a first step in trying to reverse the apparent decline? Most of us chose psychiatry on the basis of our undergraduate experience. My own exposure to Ruth Seifert and Anthony Clare at Barts in the early 1980s left me in no doubt that I wanted to become a psychiatrist, despite the counsel and disapproval of the charismatic physicians whom I was subsequently to work for. All the anecdotal evidence that I have been able to glean from undergraduates, foundation and specialist trainees suggests that the medical student experience of psychiatry is currently a dispiriting one. Transient placements with chaotic community teams, where the consultant psychiatrist presents as disengaged and disillusioned rather than inspirational, and poor-quality didactic teaching, delivered by often reluctant teachers, lead unsurprisingly to career choices other than psychiatry.
The material presented in this book represents an important step towards the delivery of high-quality and inspirational undergraduate teaching. Contributions from a hand-picked team of authors cover an imaginative and thought-provoking range of topics. A nucleus of the authors comes from a highly experienced Scottish group who have collected data and written widely about undergraduate psychiatry teaching. The editors have also recruited writers who are distinguished within relevant fields of medical education but find themselves, through accident of birth or employment, on the other side of Hadrian's Wall. The result is a book that carries an international relevance and contains the best ideas and solutions that our profession can provide.