Mayor seeks top level backing for Medical School

Mayor Michaela Boyle (front right) with representatives from Sinn Fein, the SDLP, UUP, DUP, People Before Profit, Ulster University and other stakeholders at the meeting in the Guildhall last week.
Mayor Michaela Boyle (front right) with representatives from Sinn Fein, the SDLP, UUP, DUP, People Before Profit, Ulster University and other stakeholders at the meeting in the Guildhall last week.

Mayor of Derry & Strabane Colr. Michaela Boyle, has called on party leaders in Northern Ireland to pledge their strong support to the campaign to get Derry’s medical school over the line.

Mayor Boyle was speaking following last week’s cross-party meeting in the Guildhall to discuss growing concern over the fact that the doctor training facility Ulster University plans to open in Derry has not yet been signed off.

Mayor Boyle said that given the time constraints to meet the deadline for taking in the first cohort of students at the Graduate Entry Medical School, the issue was of paramount importance.

“I am currently in the process of getting signatures from our political leaders to bring some pressure to bear on securing a meeting with head of the NI Civil Service, David Sterling and the Permanent Secretaries of the Departments for Health and the Economy, Richard Pengelly and Noel Lavery,” she said.

“I cannot stress enough the urgency of progressing this key strategic component in the plans for the economic development of the North West.”

Discontent was expressed at last week’s cross-party meeting arranged by the Mayor amid concerns that the major training facility could be delayed again.

Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Féin Foyle MP, Elisha McCallion, said there was a “united voice coming from the north west to demand a medical school for Derry.”

During the meeting, serious concern was raised at the lack of response from the Department for Health regarding the business case for the graduate entry level school which will train doctors for what the university termed “a healthcare system at breaking point.”

The department, however, has said that 18 months on, there remains outstanding issues and claimed a more realistic time-frame for delivery of the medical school was required.

Ulster University has said it remained steadfast in its commitment to establishing the Medical School in the North West and to advancing Magee.

“The Magee campus is a priority for Ulster University, reflected in our significant investments in teaching, student experience and globally significant research on campus and we are preparing to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2019, reflecting years of hard work, commitment and dedication of our students and staff. We have clear plans to grow Magee, reflecting the expertise and commitment of our staff, the talent and energy of our students and ensuring that the campus will realise its full potential in this vibrant University City,” a spokesperson said.

“In 2018 Ulster University opened a new state-of-the-art teaching block at the Magee campus marking an £11million investment. A recent philanthropic donation of £5m in data analytics research places both the Magee campus and city at the forefront of this progressive field. The purchase of the Foyle College lands signals our ambition in the city and is one of a number of commitments and investments we are making, both on campus, and more broadly in our civic leadership in the North West. Options for the Foyle College lands will now be explored in line with the university’s plans for growth of the Magee campus and its wider estates strategy.”

“Ulster University’s participation in the City Deal recognises the crucial role our university plays as an economic driver in the North West and will see us match our expertise to the city’s potential in this unparalleled opportunity to boost economic growth and prosperity.

“The Ulster University City Deal proposals will drive innovation in personalised medicine, cognitive analytics, robotics and automation, leading to both new research posts and opportunities for more than 2,000 additional students. The proposed riverfront innovation hub will build upon the expertise of our first data analytics Institute, opened in 2017 and headquartered at Magee campus, and which cemented our reputation as a global leader in this field. Also integral to the City Deal remains our commitment to establishing a Graduate Entry Medical School in a bid to address the challenges of a healthcare system at breaking point.”