Liverpool University is planning to open a medical school in north and west Cumbria to tackle the shortage of doctors in the region.
In a partnership with Lancaster University, the University of Central Lancashire (UcLan) and St Martin's College, Liverpool is preparing a bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. If the bid is successful, the school could be up and running in two years. At least 50 medical students would carry out clinical training in hospitals in the Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde and Morecambe Bay areas each year. They would receive Liverpool medical degrees.
John Caldwell, dean of medicine at Liverpool, said the university wanted to attract more high-calibre undergraduates to the region and encourage much greater investment in healthcare research.
"There are shortages of both general practitioners and hospital consultants in Cumbria and Lancashire - areas that do not enjoy the benefits of a medical school," he said. "Evidence shows that doctors who receive their training and education locally are more likely to remain in the area when they qualify."
Lancaster is already involved in teaching Liverpool medical students, and it will be joined by UcLan and St Martin's as the school is developed.
Professor Caldwell said student numbers on Liverpool's undergraduate medical course had risen by almost 100 over the past five years. With the new medical school, an extra 120 doctors could be trained by 2008 - although he estimated that this would provide the region with only 70 per cent of the doctors it needs.
Kath Reade, chair of the Cumbria and Lancashire Strategic Health Authority, stressed the importance of developing "home-grown" medical education. "This work will make sure that we have adequate numbers of doctors for our population," she said.
"We will continue to be involved in the university's 'grand-parenting' of this project," she added.