Victory in campaign for funded places at Worcester’s medical school
Funding for 50 places to study medicine at the Three Counties Medical School in Worcester has been secured following a long campaign by local MP Robin Walker. Health Secretary Steve Barclay announced the commitment to train British doctors in Worcester during a speech at Conservative Party Conference.
Robin has been campaigning to secure a medical school for the local area over many years and was delighted to visit the site of the Three Counties Medical School last year before it opened, he welcomed the first students beginning studies earlier this year but has continued to press Government to ensure that local students can study there, having written to the Chancellor as recently as last month.
The confirmation of funded places is the final step in securing a pipeline of local doctors within the three counties and the medical school is headquartered at the long established University of Worcester which has been one of the fastest growing centres in the country for nurse training in recent years. Robin has long argued that local health trusts would benefit from a local supply of doctors and suffer from an over dependence on large urban centres such as Birmingham and Bristol. He has been joined over the last few years by all of Worcestershire’s MPs, the Herefordshire and Worcestershire ICB, the Worcestershire Acute Trust, the Worcestershire Health and Care Trust and an array of trusts from across Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Dudley.
For some time it appeared that a majority of students at the medial school would have to be overseas students as the NHS body responsible for allocating funding for places had not awarded any to the three new medical schools approved in 2020. After the medical school got formally approved by the GMC Robin organised a gathering of MPs from across the Three Counties to lobby the Health Secretary on the issue of funded places. He also spoke about it at the Education Committee, which he chairs, raised it with the Prime Minister on the liaison committee and joined the Health and Social Care Committee as a special guest for their session on the NHS long term plan, which had originally suggested that funded places might not be available until 2025.
Speaking today he congratulated the new medical school, all the health trusts and the University of Worcester for overcoming the final challenge to get a fully fledged medical school training local students to become doctors. He revealed that just before Parliament went into recess he had written to the Chancellor on the issue to point out that all the Government money that has been invested in the facilities for the school through the Towns Fund and spending through the NHS within local Trusts would go further if the issue of funded places was rapidly addressed.
Welcoming the news, Robin said
“Securing funded places is a huge breakthrough, it means our Three Counties Medical school can start to train the doctors of tomorrow and this will make a massive difference to both recruitment and retention in our local NHS. It is a great credit to our University that they have continued to invest in the medical school even when there was significant uncertainty about funding for local students and to all the local NHS trusts for significantly supporting it in its early years. Charitable and NHS funding enabled the first few local students to begin their studies there but with funding for 50 domestic students each year from 2024, that cohort can now rapidly expand to meet need in our local health service.
“After the publication of the long term workforce plan I pointed out to ministers and officials that all the ingredients for a successful medical school were in place - demand for placements in local NHS trusts, a University with a great track record in healthcare and a strong team and more than enough demand from local students with more than 1000 applicants for places last year. We just needed to ensure that there were funded places as soon as possible. I am grateful to our Health Secretary Steve Barclay who has delivered them today.
“This feels like it has been a long time coming but today’s decision is truly welcome and will be a boost for our city, our county and the whole health economy of the three Counties. I am hugely grateful to all the councillors and colleagues who have supported this campaign and to the Ministers who have listened and acted. The NHS long term plan for workforce was extremely welcome and will mean a strong pipeline of medical students for years to come but my one concern when it was published was the possibility of a years delay before local students could be funded and our University having to rely upon international students who are less likely to stay and work in our NHS for another year. Now this has been addressed it is nothing but good news.”
Conservative parliamentary candidate for Worcester Marc Bayliss said:
“It’s great to see the government listen to our local campaign to fund training places at the new medical school in the city. Our local NHS needs more medics and it’s great that people will be able to train here in Worcester. 50 paid places is a good start but I will be keeping up the pressure to increase the number in future.”
Health & Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:
“I’m delighted to announce today that we are making more than 200 medical school extra places available at universities for next September.
“Most of these places will be going to three new NHS medical schools, meaning hundreds of additional doctors working on the wards in the years to come.
“This will help ensure the NHS is set for the future and that patients get the care they need when they need it.”