Rivals bid for doctors in the house

March 3, 2000

Rival bids were launched this week to set up a medical school taking 600 new medical students within five years.

The universities of Exeter and Plymouth have joined Truro National Health Service Trust to propose a "Peninsula Medical School", which would be the first such school southwest of Bristol.

The University of East Anglia has submitted two alternative bids for a Norwich-based school.

One is for Britain's first four-year undergraduate medical degree, the other for a more conventional five-year degree. It was forced to add the five-year option after General Medical Council pressure.

The bids are the last to be considered by the government as part of its 1,000-medical-students-a-year expansion. The successful one will be funded jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the NHS. A decision is expected in May.

Under the bid from the Southwest, which trains only 3 per cent of England's doctors despite having 10 per cent of its population, the first 120 students would arrive in October 2002. The 600 total would be reached by 2007.

The plan is to divide students evenly between Exeter and Plymouth universities for the first two years, connecting them via a "virtual" campus. They would later go to sites in Truro, Torbay and North Devon and work in the community.

Particular emphasis will be placed on "skills labs", where students will be able to work with models and simulations.

Research would include issues relevant locally, including cancer, ageing, heart disease, diabetes, mental health and bone and joint disease.

The bid would involve recruiting about 175 extra staff, including more than 50 academics. It would hope to attract extra money through European Objective Union One Funding, which means raising matching funds through private partnerships.

In East Anglia, a preparatory start-up year would begin in September, with courses starting the following year and student numbers rising to 110 per year. The school, at a site created by UEA and the new Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, would involve local NHS providers.

Initial plans would be for about 40 new consultant posts and 43 new teaching jobs, with slightly more if the five-year option is selected.

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