Magee medical school must be 'actioned urgently'
A NEW medical school in Derry must be "urgently actioned" to improve doctor recruitment, politicians have been told.
The cross-party health committee at Stormont was also warned yesterday that an extra 1,000 medical consultants will be needed by 2033.
Members heard evidence from the Royal College of General Practitioners and British Medical Association (BMA).
The New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal said the executive would bring forward proposals for the expansion of Ulster University's (UU) Magee campus in Derry, including an increase in students.
This will help it realise its 10,000 student campus target and a graduate entry medical school.
The only medical higher education facility in the north is at Queen's University Belfast.
UU had hoped to admit an initial 60 trainee doctors at Magee last year, increasing to 120 students per year.
It had to abandon its plans, blaming the absence of a ministerial decision on funding for the delay.
The Irish government has said it is "willing in principle to contribute to capital investment to support expanded provision at Ulster University Magee campus".
Economy minister Diane Dodds told The Irish News this week that while there was work to be done, every effort would be made to fulfil the NDNA commitment within the current assembly mandate.
BMA's Northern Ireland Council chairman Dr Tom Black told yesterday's meeting that the transformation of the health and social care service "needs to happen urgently".
Dr Black told the committee that it needed to address "workload, workforce and funding". Workplace pressures experienced by doctors was having a detrimental effect on morale and staffing levels, he said.
"A second medical school at Magee must be urgently actioned to improve the medical recruitment and retention, especially in general practice," he said.
"The need for more medical school places was recognised in the Gardiner Review in 2019. The same review also estimates that, due to people living longer and increased demand on the health service, there will need to be a 50 per cent increase in the number of consultants over the next 15 years, meaning that an additional 1,000 more consultants will need to be in place in Northern Ireland by 2033.
"We need the medical school places to bring the students through."
Dr Black added that waiting times for patients were unacceptably long.
"The situation has become particularly worse in the last year with regard to waiting times for patients being referred urgently from general practice to secondary care," he said.
"We should be able to guarantee a service for all of these patients, where time is critical to the best outcomes being achieved."