The Open University is joining forces with the universities of Exeter and Plymouth to propose a radical new medical school in the south-west of England, writes Julia Hinde.
Based in district general hospitals and general-practice surgeries throughout the region, rather than in a single teaching hospital, the concept was first proposed by The Open University last year.
However, it is only now taking firm shape, with confirmed partner universities and NHS trusts, in the run-up to the allocation by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Department of Health of 1,000 extra medical school places agreed by government earlier this year. Universities will have to bid for these places early in the new year.
The proposed school, which could graduate its first students as early as 2005, would be for graduates only.
According to plans, would-be medics would first embark on a home-based foundation course in pre-clinical medicine, written by The Open University, before progressing to the three years of predominantly clinical education at the networked medical school in the south-west.
According to plans, the school would take 150 students a year and there would be a strong reliance on IT for formal teaching. Rob Sneyd, acting dean at Plymouth Postgraduate Medical School and one of those leading the plan, stresses that any bid submitted to Hefce and the DoH must be realistic and, above all, cost neutral for the NHS trusts involved.
Discussions are in progress with Bristol University Medical School, which currently sends students for clinical placements to hospitals throughout the region, in an effort to co-ordinate future placements.
As well as winning backing from the joint Hefce/DoH group allocating the additional medical places, the proposed curriculum requires approval from the General Medical Council.
A submission is expected imminently.