Two universities in Yorkshire joined forces this week in a bid to increase the number of doctors trained in the region by almost 50 per cent and to persuade non-traditional students to consider a career in medicine.
The joint bid by the universities of Leeds and Bradford, with help from the Open University, is part of the government's plan to train an extra 1,000 doctors a year.
But the key to the partnership, according to Bradford vice-chancellor Colin Bell, will be the ability to widen participation to students without A levels, to those from deprived communities and to ethnic minority students.
"Our proposal revolutionises the way doctors are trained," Professor Bell said. "Not only does it address an urgent need for more skilled staff, but it also paves the way for developing more home-grown doctors from the pool of talent that already exists locally."
The shortage of doctors in Yorkshire is more serious than in any other region outside London. Last year 80 doctors had to be "imported" from other parts of the country to fill vacancies.
The universities said the joint bid offered particular benefits for female ethnic minority students because it would enable them to live at home, which was the preferred option for many Asian families.
Bradford has already developed expertise in overcoming the difficulties of recruitment and retention of students from areas of socioeconomic deprivation. This has generated a fourfold rise in the number of South Asian women embarking on courses.
Jeff Lucas, dean of health studies at Bradford, stressed that the intention was to break the mould of the A-level gold standard without dumbing down medicine. "The workforce simply does not reflect the community it serves. We know that the relationship between poverty and poor health is a real one... we want doctors who have first-hand experience," he said.