Scramble for new docs

April 17, 1998

Hertfordshire University has become the latest institution without medical students to join the scramble for up to 1,000 new medical school places.

Universities and National Health Service regional offices had to submit to government the likely capital and revenue costs of increasing medical school intakes this week.

Initial figures suggest the cost of expansion could be much less than the Pounds 200 million estimated by the medical workforce standing advisory committee, which last year recommended training 1,000 extra doctors annually.

The government will consider the committee's recommendation and costings in light of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Tom Hanahoe, Hertfordshire's pro-vice chancellor academic staffing and services, said: "We have a large faculty of health and human sciences with more than 2,500 students. Clearly medical education would fit very comfortably with that and with our faculty of biosciences. We have very good relationships with the NHS within the county and are working closely with them."

In the Northwest, NHS chiefs say the existing medical schools at Manchester and Liverpool could take up to 200 extra students.

Michael Orme, regional director of education and training, said that the recurrent NHS costs could be less than the full Service Increment for Teaching (SIFT) costs that the health service gives to teaching hospitals.

In the West Midlands, Birmingham University - the only medical school in the large geographic area - is proposing to increase intakes by up to 120 to a maximum of 340.

Warwick University, also in the region, is looking to join with the existing medical school at Leicester and expand intakes there by 125. Costs of the increase here are thought to be substantially less than the Pounds 200 million proposed by the advisory committee.

Meanwhile, medical schools are having to make significant staff cuts in a bid to balance the books. Reduced budgets and stand-still research assessment exercise results have left many schools with debts of several million pounds.

Manchester University medical school is having to cut Pounds 2 million from a Pounds 30 million budget. This is equivalent to the cost of the 20 senior academic posts that will be lost by 2000 through a programme of premature retirement, streamlining of technical support and redeployment of staff.

At Leeds cuts of between Pounds 250,000 and Pounds 500,000 are being made, while at Belfast cuts of Pounds 800,000 are being met by non-replacement of staff and premature retirements.

Twenty-two clinical medical school staff posts have been cut from the university in the past three years.

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