OPINION: North West pivotal to addressing health crisis
The expansion in the number of students studying health, health science and social care related disciplines at Ulster University and the development of courses at North West Regional College and ATU/ LYIT in Donegal have been widely welcomed, but could the North West become a major European hub for health training and in the process help address the growing crisis in our health service, north and south?
The North West is already recognised as a major contributor to health services. However developments over recent years including the Magee Medical School, the transfer of courses from Jordanstown, coupled with the advancement of courses on other colleges north and south, the expansion in research and health-related initiatives under the City Deal funds and the plans for Northlands, have raised the profile of the region further and helped to cement that reputation.
But more could be done here. We have first class educational and training facilities that are producing professionals who can fill some of the many vacancies in health and social care settings and related disciplines. But with major buy-in from governments north and south, we could see further advancements building on the expertise that is already here.
That will necessitate major commitments on funding and resourcing, a lifting of the Maximum Student Numbers (MaSN) cap, and timely follow through on delivery and releasing of funds. Too often plans drawn are up only to hit brick wall after brick wall. That needs to change.
We all know the cost of the crisis in health and mental health sectors. We know what the problems are, and this region could play an even greater part in the solution.