Health Service Approaching Medical Student Funding Crisis

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

It follows the publication of a review into medical school places in Northern Ireland, which found that at least 100 more students are needed each year to meet the growing demand for doctors.

Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, said that such a recruitment drive could cost up to £30m "which would have to be found by making reductions in other areas of the health service".

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

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

SDLP councillor Sinead McLaughlin called for clarity on whether or not the project can be approved in the absence of devolved government.

She said: "The medical school has experienced delay after delay and if the business case does not move forward and receive approval by the end of May, the project will be delayed for a further twelve months. This means that students would not be able to commence their studies on the Magee Campus before October 2021, despite expectations that the first intake would take place this September, 2019.

"It is not clear at this stage if approval can be given in the absence of a sitting Executive; if this is the case, then the City is once again being failed by dysfunctional politicals.  

"I proposed that we write to the Permanent Secretary for the Department for the Economy to ask the Department to proceed with urgency to get approval for the medical school within the next four months. Time is of the essence and it is imperative that this project does not get knocked back into the long grass again."


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