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Plans for new medical school shelved as health secretary says there is ‘no case’

Plans to set up a new medical school in North Wales to help GP recruitment have been shelved after the health secretary said there was no case.

Wealth health secretary Vaughan Gething said after months of discussion he was not persuaded of the need for a new medical school, which would be a long and costly process.

Instead he proposed a collaboration between Cardiff, Swansea and Bangor Universities to provide more medical education in North Wales.

‘The advice I have received does not support the case for the immediate creation of a medical school in North Wales,’ he said in a statement.

He added there was a willingness to provide students with the option of spending a far greater period of their studies in North Wales.

‘The proposal outlined above provides for a better use of resources and would deliver medical education in North Wales at a much greater pace.’

In May the head of medical sciences at Bangor University said it was ready to host a new medical school with relatively few additional staff needed.

Professor Dean Williams wrote in a report commissioned by Plaid Cymru that Wales must expand medical schools to deal with future shortages of doctors, particularly GPs.

‘A medical school at Bangor would help attract recruits from rural Wales, would embed students in rural areas at an early stage in their training and help retain practitioners in rural areas,’ the report concluded.

In response to the Government’s announcement, Arfon AM Sian Gwenllian, said the case for a medical school in Bangor was clear and they would continue to campaign.

‘It is an important step in developing a safe and sustainable health service in north Wales.’

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in Wales said there needed to be more undergraduate medical school places, pointing out that the number of students from Wales applying to study medicine has fallen by 15% in five years – a steeper drop than in the rest of the UK.

In addition, North and West Wales have fewer GPs per 10,000 population than the rest of the country.

The academy also said that specific provision of medical education in North Wales is needed to attract doctors to work in the region.

But academy chair Dr Paul Myres said: ‘We do not believe the case has been sufficiently made as yet to support the viability of a medical school in North Wales to provide the breadth of experience medical students need.

‘We would support a proposed collaborative approach to medical education and training in north Wales, which might be based upon Cardiff, Swansea and Bangor Universities.

‘As a leading medical college voice we must stress the absolute importance of enabling the graduate ultimately to move into any specialty.’

Dr Myers added that collaboration between Bangor University, where there is already a health sciences department, and North West England medical schools such as Liverpool would also be a possibility.

BMA Wales chair Dr Phil Banfield said: ‘BMA Cymru Wales is keen to see more doctors trained in Wales, particularly Welsh domiciled students, as there is some evidence that those who train in Wales are more likely to stay here afterwards.

‘The best way to achieve this is a matter for wider discussion. We would certainly like to see more students and trainee doctors exposed to patient care in north Wales, so they can appreciate the benefits a career there may bring.’