Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has welcomed confirmation that the decision to approve the establishment of a medical school at Magee does not necessarily require ministerial approval.
The Department of Health has however recently stated its view that it would be for Ministers to made the ultimate decision on increasing medical student numbers “given the potential very significant recurrent financial implications”.
Speaking after a meeting involving leaders from the political parties at Stormont to discuss the campaign for the Medical School on Wednesday, the Foyle MP said:
“I joined Leas Uachtaran Shinn Fein Michelle O’Neill and leaders from the other political parties at Stormont to meet with the head of the civil service and the permanent secretary of the Department of Health to discuss the need for a graduate entry medical school in Derry.
“All party leaders were agreed on the absolute need for the medical school at Magee and for progress to be made quickly.
“At the meeting the permanent secretary of the Department of Health acknowledged the decision on the Medical School does not necessarily need ministerial approval.
“It was also agreed to commit additional resources to finalise the business case for the medical school ahead of the deadline in September.”
Mrs McCallion said there was a further agreement to examine using the funding from the Inclusive Future Fund secured for the north west to finance the Medical School.
“It is clear there is political agreement to see progress on this vital project and we agreed to meet again to take this forward to ensure the delivery of a medical school for the north west,” she said.
Earlier this month, in response to questions posed by the Journal regarding the current position with regards to the Medical School project, a spokesperson for the Department of Health responded: “The Department has been providing ongoing assistance to the UU in the development of the university’s proposal for a graduate entry medical school over the past 18 months and there remain a number of issues to be addressed.
“However it must be stressed that completion of this business case should be distinguished from any process to consider the commissioning of additional medical places in Northern Ireland. The Department continues to develop its detailed response to the recommendations set out in the Review of Medical Student Places in Northern Ireland undertaken by Professor Keith Gardiner.
“This will require a comprehensive assessment of the full range of options, with particular consideration of value for money and affordability for health and social care. Ultimately, such considerations will require ministerial approval given the potential very significant recurrent financial implications, which cut across Executive Departments.”