Belfast Telegraph

Derry medical school plans shelved due to Stormont impasse

By Donna Deeney

A planned medical school at Ulster University's campus in Londonderry has been shelved because there are no ministers in Stormont.

The first intake of 60 students at the Graduate Entry Medical School at Magee Campus had been scheduled for 2019 - but the future of a medical school any time in the future is now in doubt.

The Department of Health commissioned Professor Keith Gardiner to carry out a review of medical school provision in Belfast and Derry.

His unpublished report, which was completed in August this year, was considered vital to whether a new medical school would be set up in Derry, or existing facilities at Queen's University would be expanded.

The Department of Health spokesman said the report would be published, but did not say when. "While officials continue to engage with both universities on medical education matters, it will be for ministers to decide on any business cases submitted in respect of future medical school plans," the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Ulster University said: "While we have continued to work closely with Department officials over recent months and await published findings of the Gardiner report, we remain deeply disappointed that the lack of political decision making will delay the plans for the Graduate Entry Medical School."

DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton described the news as a "huge blow" and called for the Secretary of State to step in and make a decision.

He said: "I understand that people will be very angry about this and so am I.

"I want to be in a position where I am at my desk, and we need ministers at their desks, but this is the difficulty we are in.

"We believe priority should be given to health and eduction and it can't be held up.

"There needs to be movement to allow these decisions to be taken, so in the absence of an Executive, reluctantly, there needs to be decisions from the Westminster perspective through the Secretary of State.

"We can't allow this medical school to be held up. A year now has been lost already, but the longer this goes on the further the date for potential graduates is being pushed back."

SDLP health spokesman Mark H Durkan said the stalling of the medical school in Derry is an example of how people are paying the price for a lack of government.

The Foyle MLA said: "I am hopeful that the Gardiner report will tell us what people working in healthcare here have been telling us for years - that this medical school in Derry is an urgent necessity to train more doctors and to attract and retain doctors in the west.

"However, what is clear is that, regardless of what the report's findings and recommendations are, this vital project will not progress in the absence of ministerial approval and, given the continued absence of ministers, that means it won't progress.

"The clock is ticking, the lack of government here is costing people dearly and costing people daily and this is yet another example of how."

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