The Ulster University has said it hopes to have plans for a major new medical school in the north west realised by 2019.
The University has confirmed that the planned facility, which would specialise in training GPs and clinicians, has now successfully passed the first stage of its application for accreditation from the General Medical Council (GMC).
Potential sites are now being explored as part of an outline business case to be submitted to the Department for the Economy for approval upon completion.
An Ulster University spokesperson said: “The Outline Business Case (OBC), which is currently being drafted, has identified a number of sites in the North West region, including the Ulster University’s Magee campus.
“The OBC will look at each location and help to determine the most economically viable and practical option.”
She added: “Our aim is to welcome the first cohort of students to the medical school in September 2019.
“GMC accreditation has already successfully passed the first stage and we are now working through stage two. There are eight stages in total, with the eighth stage complete when the first cohort of students graduate in 2023.”
The University has told the ‘Journal’ it plans to source funding for the facility from the Departments for Economy and Health, as well as through “philanthropy and student fees.”
The University is now seeking applicants for a School of Medicine Foundation Dean to be based at Magee.
In the job description, it is stated that the Graduate Entry Medical (GEM) School will focus on primary care, will be co-located with Magee’s School of Nursing and linked to the Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC) in Derry.
Former Health Ministers Simon Hamilton and Michelle O’Neill, representatives from the Western Trust and other health bodies, and local politicians, have all backed the Medical School plans, stating it would attract and retain more medical staff and address a shortage across the region.
The new facility, they argue, would have a major impact on the health care needs of local people and provide an economic boost.
In a separate development, it is understood a planning decision on proposals for a major 75,000 sq. ft. new Primary Health Care Facility in Pennyburn is expected within the next few months.
The proposals form part of plans to re-develop the former Arntz Belting Company site.
When asked if the University felt such a facility could help meet its own Medical School doctor training needs, the UU spokesperson answered: “Ulster University has signed Memorandums of Understanding with all five N. Ireland health trusts and with a number of GP federations.
“Our relationships with those trusts and professional bodies, access to their clinical expertise and opportunities for our medical students to gain practical, patient-centred experience will be an important factor in the teaching and development of necessary medical workforce skills.”