AT LEAST seven universities are planning to take medical students to cash in on expected growth.
Earlier this month the Medical Work Force Standing Advisory Committee recommended Britain train 1,000 extra doctors a year to cope with increased demand, changing patterns of work and prevent an over-reliance on doctors trained abroad.
The government's full response is still awaited, but many universities are drawing up plans so that they can bid for new students.
Among the most ambitious are Sussex and Brighton universities, which are in joint preliminary discussions with local hospital trusts about establishing a new undergraduate medical school. Work has begun on designing a curriculum and the project has been costed by accountants Coopers and Lybrand.
Other players include Durham, Plymouth, Warwick and Keele universities, which are all talking with existing medical schools.
The most advanced partnership is that proposed between Warwick and Leicester universities, where the intake to the merged Joint Medical School of the Universities of Leicester and Warwick would be 300 - 125 more than Leicester's existing capacity.
The proposed school would have a single dean and would offer a single curriculum, with students based at both Leicester and Warwick and staff moving between the two campuses.
Lectures could be given at either site with simultaneous transmission to the other campus. The universities propose to introduce a graduate entry programme at the Warwick campus where science graduates could convert to medicine in four years.
Durham University is holding informal talks with Newcastle University about a possible collaboration to form an enlarged regional medical school in which some students might spend the early part of their degrees in Durham before going to Newcastle.
Plymouth University, which already has a postgraduate medical school and nursing and midwifery courses, is in discussions with Bristol University, while Keele University is thought to be talking with Manchester University. Keele undergraduate medics may spend their first two years in Manchester before moving to Staffordshire for the remaining three years.
Hull University's faculty of health, which contains a postgraduate medical school, is also thought to be examining the possibilities of undergraduate teaching.