The Department of Health is assessing the cost-effectiveness of locating a Medical School in Derry and said any final decision will require ministerial sign off.
The Medical School forms part of Derry’s City Deal proposals and as such the local council is engaging with the UK government to see “if this project would be eligible for UKG funding under the City Deals programme or the Integrated Education Fund.”
The Ulster University has been for some time considering the development of a Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) to be located in Derry and this project proposal features heavily in the Derry City & Strabane District Council’s economic regeneration plans for the region.
With the support of the Local Council the University partners have been engaging with a number of NI Departments in an effort to progress this proposal.
A spokesperson for UU confirmed that as part of its latest business case it aims to have its first academic year of enrolments for the GEMS in 2020/21.
The Northern Ireland Department of Health (DoH) is acutely aware of the pressures on the medical workforce across Health and Social Care (HSC) and its key role in leading the transformation of services set out in Delivering Together.
Accordingly, DoH commissioned a Medical School Places Review, led by Professor Keith Gardiner, to determine the optimum number of medical school places that Northern Ireland requires per year. His report, published on 11 January 2019, raises challenging, long-term, strategic and cross-cutting questions with major financial implications.
Amongst other issues, it recommends expanding medical training places by at least 100 per year, potentially costing up to an additional £30m per year when fully implemented. This report is a key consideration of UU in putting forward its proposal for a medical school in Derry.
While DoH has been assisting UU in the development of its Outline Business Case (OBC) for a Graduate Entry Medical School at Magee Campus, this is separate from any decision on medical student expansion in Northern Ireland. Feedback was provided on 13 July 2019 to the fourth iteration of the OBC.
Any commissioning of additional medical places for Northern Ireland must address comprehensively the full range of available options, with a particular focus on the assessment of value for money and affordability for health and social care, the report says.
“For example, rather than simply expanding medical student numbers, it will be important to explore lower-cost measures likely to increase the supply of medics over the short-term and which enhance and maximise the significant investment currently being made in undergraduate medical education.
“DoH is developing a business case to consider these matters. Given the cross-cutting nature and potential for significant associated costs with the Medical School business case, the DoH Permanent Secretary has advised that any decision on this or other long-term options, must be considered by Northern Ireland Executive Ministers.”
It added: “The provision of HE places in NI or the establishment of a medical school in Derry is a devolved matter, however, the Derry & Strabane City District Council is presently engaging with UKG to consider if this project would be eligible for UKG funding under the City Deals programme or the Integrated Education Fund.
“The medical school is one part of a wider package of proposals currently under consideration with other draft proposals included that could complement existing specialties at the Magee Campus.
“The development of the Council’s final bids for a City Deal from the Inclusive Future Fund is still ongoing and as of August 2019, there has been no official final bid submitted for either funding stream to UKG, including no formal bid to provide funding to a Derry medical school.”

Photo: projected image of what Magee will look like if expanded with Graduate Entry Medical School by the riverfront.

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