The planned expansion of medical school intakes will start from next September, it was confirmed this week.
Existing medical schools will be sent offers of proposed admission targets for 1999 intakes over the next few days, with about 200 more medical places likely to be on offer in 1999.
Medical schools have until November 26 to accept or reject additional places, with a firm announcement expected in January. The confirmation of an immediate "limited" increase in intakes came from the new Joint Higher Education Funding Council for England/Department of Health Implementation Group which this week launched its consultation document on the process for allocating the 1,000 new medical school places agreed by government earlier this year.
An immediate increase means that proposed new medical schools, such as that suggested by the Open University, and new partnerships, such as that between Leicester and Warwick universities, will not be considered as part of the initial expansion.
However, the document notes that "bids from potential providers of medical school places, as part of the main exercise for the year 2000 on, will be carefully considered in the context of the overall phased implementation process, and will not necessarily be affected by decisions on the 1999 intake".
Universities and hospitals have until November 30 to comment on the group's proposals for allocating the rest of the additional 1,000 places. Comments are invited on the proposed bidding and decision-making process, and on the timetable. New places will be announced by May 31, 1999.
The document does not indicate how much, if any, capital will be available for new buildings or facilities to accommodate the extra students.
Instead, it stresses the competitive nature of the bidding and allocation process. The costing exercise, undertaken in the spring, when existing medical schools and potential new schools were asked to submit plans, indicated that considerably more than the required number of extra places could be made available in England.
Leeds University School of Medicine is to bid for 100 of the additional students. It is proposing a partnership with Bradford hospitals.