Ulster University has confirmed that its Magee campus is the frontrunner to deliver a new undergraduate course in Paramedic Studies.
Representatives also said that additional healthcare related courses could be moved to the Derry campus to complement the Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) – if it is delivered.
At a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee, SDLP Councillor Sinead McLaughlin posed a number of questions to Ulster University (UU) representatives including Dr Malachy O'Neill, Provost of the Magee campus.
A letter from Head of the NI Civil Service cast into doubt UU’s commitment to the Derry campus when he warned that Ulster University is not ready to deliver a medical school.
Mr Sterling said UU is not proposing to finance the Magee medical school from within its own resources and he “must ensure value for money for the taxpayer”.
Cllr McLaughlin therefore called on UU to demonstrate its intent by moving other medical/healthcare courses to the Magee Campus without delay and insisted that “Health Sciences should be aligned with this city and region.” She suggested Physiotherapy and Radiotherapy courses could be shifted from Jordanstown to Derry and would be every bit as successful as the nursing course.
A UU representative shared news that the university is in “pole position” to secure a Paramedic Studies undergraduate course.
It was also mooted that a Physician Associates course could be relocated from Coleraine to align with the GEMS.
Both courses were said to have 20-30 places, meaning that student numbers could potentially increase by 60 at the Derry campus. If physiotherapy and radiotherapy students were to be moved that number would increase significantly.
In a statement to the Derry News, a spokesperson for Ulster University said it already partners with the NI Ambulance Service in delivering a new Foundation degree in Paramedic Studies.
The University will respond to the forthcoming tender for provision of a BSc in Paramedic Studies.
The spokesperson added: “If we were to be awarded that tender, this provision would be located within our multi award winning School of Nursing at the Magee campus.
“With our popular and highly regarded School of Nursing ranked 6th in the UK, and given our existing partnership with NIAS, we would welcome the opportunity to develop and deliver this new undergraduate BSc programme at Magee.”
Decision pending
A decision on Health Sciences has however been delayed until January 2020 with Magee and Coleraine both in the running and a spokesperson stated that this includes courses in Physiotherapy and Radiotherapy.
In January 2018 UU confirmed that the relocation of allied health and health sciences provision from Jordanstown to Coleraine would be paused to enable “further consideration in the light of healthcare needs, the vision for transforming healthcare to meet those demands, and its centres of excellence in teaching and research.”
A spokesperson commented: “Reflecting on the feedback from professional health sciences staff and taking account of our strategic priorities and ambitions for medical education, we recognised that we had more work to do in rigorously analysing the options available to us for the location of our allied health and health sciences provision, before deciding on the way forward.
“Both our Coleraine and Magee campuses remain options to be carefully assessed in this review. Our priority is to continue to deliver and further enhance the very best course synergies, learning, professional and clinical practice opportunities for all health sciences students, and continue to make a positive impact on health and patient outcomes in this vital sector.
“We expect to reach and confirm a decision early in the new year, ahead of the UCAS deadline in January 2020.”
In terms of Physician Associates course, UU said “this opportunity will be explored and consulted upon in due course.”
Physician Associates (PAs) are healthcare professionals who support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients in hospital or through GP-led services, reflecting the vital role of the wider primary care teams in improving population health and wellbeing.
Launched in 2017, the two-year full-time programme offers intensive evidence based teaching and hands-on workplace training to fully equip students with the skills and knowledge required to support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients.
“Given the pressing need to build the multi-disciplinary, highly skilled healthcare teams of the future, the co-location of related courses is often a factor in delivering the most relevant and rewarding student experience, particularly in clinical disciplines.
“With this in mind, the University has always considered the potential for its Physician Associate’s provision to be part of wider medical education in the future.”

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