British Labour’s shadow NIO minister Karin Smyth has described as ‘ridiculous’ the hold up of progress on Derry’s medical school due to the inability of civil servants to sign off on funding for the project.
Karin Smyth, who acts as shadow NIO minister in Jeremy Corbyn’ cabinet-in-waiting, recently visited Derry, and was impressed with Ulster University’s plans for a Graduate Entry Medical School in the city.
But she echoed concerns expressed recently by Derry City & Strabane District Council that if the facility is not approved by May its first year of enrolments could be pushed back to 2021.
She said: “I recently visited the team behind the project to progress the medical school in Derry/Londonderry. The scale of the work to date, and their ambition for their city and region, is to be commended, and the Secretary of State must find a way to support them.
“We have the ridiculous situation in which civil servants can support the business case but not agree the funding, because that is beyond their powers and would be considered a reallocation.”
She said a medical school for Derry was likely to be game-changing for the city as “studies show that doctors tend to stay in the areas where they train so it means more doctors for the region to deliver high-quality care.”
“In NI, the locum bill is more than £80 million per annum and rising- an increase, according to the Bengoa report, of more than 78 per cent in five years. It is clear that NI needs to be training more of its own doctors and other clinical staff. It also needs to pay them properly, but the rates of pay of those staff are falling behind those in the rest of the UK,” she remarked.
Minister of State for the North John Penrose, said: “The medical school needs to be addressed as part of the ‘City Deal’ discussions that are currently getting under way, and I would be happy to discuss that with local people and, if necessary, with her as well.”