Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland health service needs £30m for medical students

Areas of the health service could see cuts of £30m a year to meet the demand for medical students, a Northern Ireland health boss has warned.

Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly was speaking after a review into medical school places in Northern Ireland was published.

The report found that at least 100 more medical students are needed a year to meet the demand for doctors.

Mr Pengelly said that to recruiting the number of students necessary could cost up to £30m a year "funding which would have to be found by making reductions in other areas of the health service.".

He said that the report raised "long term, strategic and cross-cutting questions with major financial implications which will require decisions by ministers".

The NI Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions Act has been introduced by Secretary of State Karen Bradley to allow senior civil servants to make decisions in the absence of Ministers.

A new medical school at Londonderry's Ulster University Magee campus had been scheduled to open in 2019. The lack of available funding has put the project's future in doubt.

Northern Ireland's only medical school is currently based at Queen's University Belfast. It admits 271 medical students each year, with 6,142 doctors currently working in Northern Ireland.

In a joint statement Queen's and the Ulster University said they welcomed the report and requested a meeting with Mr Pengelly to "to discuss a collaborative approach" to tackling the issues raised.

The review recommended that the department should increase the number of funded medical school places from 236 to 336 a year "as soon as possible, preferably by September 2019". 

It also found that Northern Ireland had a "shortage of doctors working in permanent positions" and that there were areas "where it is difficult to attract doctors to work and train".

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