Queen’s and Ulster University to work together on Medical School provision

Ulster University's Magee campus, and Queen's University, Belfast
Ulster University's Magee campus, and Queen's University, Belfast

Ulster University and Queen’s have agreed to work together on medical school provision after a key review advocated 100 additional places for student doctors each year and a raft of other measures.

Both universities were represented on the Medical School Places Review Group, chaired by Professor Keith Gardiner, and in a joint statement issued today welcomed the ten recommendations contained within the report.

In advance of the publication this morning, the Vice-Chancellors of both universities wrote jointly to the Permanent Secretary for Health requesting a meeting to discuss a collaborative approach to the provision of medical school expansion.

Ulster University has submitted a detailed business case for a Graduate Entry Medical School at Magee and this is currently being examined by the Department of Health.

Earlier this week, Derry City & Strabane District Council Governance & Strategic Planning Committee proposed to write to Noel Lavery, Department for the Economy Permanent Secretary, asking him to expedite business case approval by May.

This would allow the Graduate Entry Medical School to be listed under the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) system in time for the start of the 2020/21 academic year.

One of the key findings of the Review Group was that the Department of Health “should expand the number of funded medical school places in NI from the current 236 per year by at least an additional 100 places per year. This increase to come into effect as soon as possible, preferably September 2019.”

It is further recommended that 70 of these 100 medical school places are made available for graduate entry students on an accelerated programme.

In its response, the Department however stated today: “An expansion of student numbers of this magnitude would represent a very significant long-term strategic and cross-cutting decision, with major financial implications, that would fall to Executive Ministers.

“The Department estimates that, once fully implemented, an expansion of student numbers by c100 places per annum would cost in the region of £30m each year, which would have to be found from reductions in existing areas of spend.

“Affordability and long-term value for money considerations must be fully assessed and addressed in a Departmental business case. In the meantime, the Department will consider measures which could be taken to enhance and maximise the significant investment currently being made in undergraduate medical education.”

Other recommendations in the Report include: making it more attractive for doctors from Northern Ireland and from elsewhere to relocate here to work: maximising medical training and teaching capacity; and positive engagement with young people to get more considering careers in the profession.

In their joint statement issued today, Queen’s University and Ulster University stated:

“In advance of the publication of this report, our Vice-Chancellors wrote jointly to the Permanent Secretary requesting a meeting to discuss a collaborative approach to the provision of medical school expansion.

“We believe that, working together, both universities can meet the needs of future workforce requirements for the medical profession in Northern Ireland with an integrated offer which will address the recommendations arising from this Review.

“We are already working in partnership on other projects. These include a joint approach to Health Innovation and the development of the concept for a Postgraduate Clinical Institute which would position Northern Ireland as a highly attractive employment destination for healthcare professionals, with integrated and innovative postgraduate skills development and training opportunities to support recruitment and retention in our workforce.”