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Graduate medical school must support disadvantaged students

The Ulster University Magee campus in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

A proposed new medical school must support students from disadvantaged backgrounds and have a comparable rise in training posts, it has been urged.

Former health minister Simon Hamilton met Ulster University's (UU) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Nixon, earlier this year to discuss a proposal to establish a Graduate Entry Medical (GEM) school in the north west.

The proposal is in the very early stages of development and senior health department officials have been holding discussions to explore the potential of the medical school.

It is proven that medical graduates are more likely to seek employment close to where they have been educated.

Such a school could, therefore, provide a platform to attract and retain skilled people into the medical profession, especially those from the north west.

The British Medical Association Northern Ireland (BMA NI) has said the new school must support access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Chair of Northern Ireland Medical Students Committee, Molly Kerr, was speaking about the proposals during an address to BMA's Annual Representative Meeting (ARM).

"A new medical school ought to address the need to widen participation to medicine by implementing measures to ensure those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are not in any way disadvantaged as they seek to embark on their medical career," she said.

"Furthermore, any increase in medical student places ought to be accompanied by an appropriate increase in the number of medical training posts. Without a rise in the number of post-graduate training positions to accompany any increase in the number of medical students being trained per year, we risk losing medical students to the other nations or indeed further afield, after having invested in their training at a local university.

"Overall, if the above criteria are acknowledged and properly addressed, this proposal of a new medical school could be a real solution to workforce planning issues. However, necessary Ulster University must recognise the criteria outlined in this motion, in order for this to be sustainable, realistic and for the overall benefit of those embarking on a career in the medical profession and the health service of Northern Ireland."

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