The University of Worcester has launched its formal application to the General Medical Council (GMC) for the creation of a new Medical School to serve the Three Counties of Gloucestershire Herefordshire, and Worcestershire.
The University's Board of Governors unanimously approved the application at their mid-March meeting. This approval follows a year of preparations, including an independent audit. The final touches to the application are now being applied before formal submission to the GMC by the end of March, where it will begin the standard in-depth scrutiny and accreditation process that always applies to applications for a new medical school. This process normally takes at least two years.
During the vital preparatory work for the application, all six local Trusts in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire have enthusiastically committed to the Three Counties Medical School project and have agreed to provide placements for medical students. Many medical practitioners in the Three Counties and surrounding areas, have also expressed strong support and a deep desire to become involved. There is also much positive support from sister universities with medical schools, with a particularly positive statement from the Vice Chancellor of Aston University, whose new medical school has just secured funded places.
The University of Worcester applied for 100 places for the new Medical School in the national competition, whose results have been announced today (20 March). This round was oversubscribed, with applications for 2,400 places, but just 1,000 new places made available by the Government.
This opportunity came too early in the accreditation process for Worcester and Worcester will be much better placed to be successful soon.
It is, however, highly likely that the acute shortage of medical doctors will lead to the creation of more places in the next 2/3 years with Worcester much more strongly placed to apply, providing, of course, that the application for accreditation by the General Medical Council is successful.
The official letter received by the University says: "The Government has indicated that the numbers allocated through this expansion process are intended to address current recognised shortages, so there remains scope for a further expansion of medical places to be agreed in order to meet future workforce planning need. The competition confirmed that there is capacity for further expansion without compromising on the quality of provision and both HEFCE and HEE are communicating this message at senior levels in Government. We would therefore encourage you to be mindful of the potential for such policy development and to consider bidding again should further opportunities arise to apply for additional medical places."
One of the positive features of the case for the creation of the Three Counties Medical Schools is the University's long-standing strengths in health education. This includes the very successful creation of the first Master's course in the UK for Physician Associates, which has received national acclaim " with all its graduates snapped up. The University has a reputation for outstanding quality in Nursing. Worcester is the only university in the Country to be shortlisted 5 times as Nurse Education Provider of the Year.
The University, which has recently been successful in its long-running campaign to get government to create more nursing places, is strongly supportive of a campaign to request that the Government fund further places to address the urgent shortfall in the NHS workforce. Doctors who earned their primary medical qualifications abroad currently fill 41% of all consultant posts in the UK.
Professor David Green, University Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, said: "Creating the Three Counties Medical School to serve the people of this region and beyond is a major investment. The accreditation process rightly takes several years. The University is fully committed to this development and is very confident that, together with our Trust partners, we will be successful in the early 2020s. As well as working through the necessary scrutiny by the General Medical Council, the University plans to increase its work in relevant research areas in which we are already very strong including bipolar disorder and dementia. We are also increasing our work in subjects allied to medicine, including Nursing, where we enjoy an outstanding reputation for quality and innovation.
"We are very grateful for all of the support from the medical profession, health educators, Trusts and sister universities that we have already received. Our concentration over the next period will be to work together to earn the necessary recognition from the GMC.
"We are very hopeful that we will have fully funded places from Health Education England and the Office for Students in due course, as there is such a big need in our region. There is a serious shortage of doctors in many rural areas as well as in the Acute Hospitals. The latest official workforce forecasts predict that the shortage of health personnel is going to balloon to 170,000 by 2027 " which is just when doctors educated at the Three Counties medical school should start coming on stream.
"The formal submission of our application to the General Medical Council is a significant commitment for the University. More importantly, it is a potentially life-enhancing development for the people of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, a region which currently lacks a medical school and which is battling an ever-growing shortage of General Practitioners and other highly trained physicians."