The findings of a key review which, it is hoped, will endorse plans for a Medical School in Derry are to be made public, the ‘Journal’ has learned.
It has now emerged that the finalised version of the Medical School Places Review, led by Professor Keith Gardiner, was submitted to the Department of Health (DoH) seven weeks ago on August 29 and is currently being scrutinised.
Ulster University’s business case has to demonstrate a clear need for a Graduate Entry Medical School in the north west, rather than new resources going to the existing medical training facility at Queen’s University in Belfast.
Ulster University has now submitted a revised Outline Business Case to the Department and has insisted that it would not be in competition with Queen’s as its facility involves a different type of medical training.
It has also submitted an application to the General Medical Council for accreditation.
The Derry facility, if approved, will offer Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery medical degrees to graduates, with a planned intake of 60 students in 2019 rising year-on-year to an annual intake of 120 students by 2024.
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has called on the DoH to release the findings of the new review, which it is hoped will prove beyond doubt, the need for such a doctor training facility in Derry to help address a chronic shortage of medical professionals across the region.
The Foyle MP said: “The findings of this report are key to moving forward the establishment of a graduate entry medical school and putting Magee University on the map as a centre of excellence.
“This is a key element to unlocking the city’s unique circumstances and reaching its full potential. Expansion of the university has been a priority for Sinn Féin in order to transform the north west region and begin to address decades of inequality and under-investment. The DoH must now release the findings of the Gardiner Report to allow the medical school project to move forward.”
A DoH spokesperson confirmed that the review will be published, but has not given any indication as to when.
She said: “Prior to submission, review team members, including senior representatives from Queen’s University and Ulster University, provided helpful comments on the final draft. We are very grateful to Professor Gardiner and his team for their extensive work. The Department is considering the report in detail and when this process is concluded it will publish the report, alongside the Departmental analysis of the findings and recommendations.”
The DoH, however, has ruled out a final decision on a new Medical School in the absence of an Executive, stating: “Whilst officials continue to engage with both universities on medical education matters, it will be for ministers to decide on any business cases submitted in respect of future medical school plans.”
Speaking about the current status of the project, a spokesperson for Ulster University said yesterday: “Having received feedback from the DoH on the Graduate Entry Medical School outline business case, Ulster University assembled a team of experts to work through the feedback and we have submitted an updated version taking into account the issues raised by Department officials.
“Ulster University remains committed to establishing a Graduate Entry Medical School rooted in the North West that will address the many health and well-being issues facing patients and communities across N. Ireland for decades to come.”
A Queen’s University spokesperson, meanwhile, said it was “committed to evolving its successful provision of medical education, both undergraduate and postgraduate, to meet the needs of society across Northern Ireland, including Primary Care in the North West”.
“Queen’s will continue to work closely with the DoH, local stakeholders and other partners to ensure that this provision is aligned with the needs of the people of Northern Ireland. The university has developed proposals for the potential expansion of medical education provision and looks forward to working with key stakeholders in addressing the recommendations of the Gardiner Report once this is published,” she said.