Plans for a new medical school in Londonderry under a £105 million funding package will help address the shortage of doctors in the west, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.
The £105 million funding package is made up of a £50 million City Deal for the Derry City and Strabane District council, with the rest to be spent on an ‘Inclusive Future Fund’ aimed at tackling the region’s deprivation and employment problems.
The City Deal announcement follows a similar pledge for Belfast, made in March, worth around £350 million.
The Londonderry deal includes plans for a new medical school at Ulster University’s Magee campus, which the BMA said would help tackle “staffing gaps” in the west of Northern Ireland.
Dr Anne Carson, deputy chair of the BMA’s Northern Ireland branch, said: “This investment is very welcome as it now means that Ulster University can move ahead with plans for the medical school at its Magee campus.
“We have a severe shortage of doctors in secondary and primary care here and only one medical school, based in Queen’s University Belfast.
“Medical students are more likely to stay and work in the areas in which they trained, yet the shortage of doctors is particularly acute in the west of the country where locum costs are also the highest and GP shortages at their worst.”
Dr Carson added: “A medical school in Ulster University’s Magee campus in Derry-Londonderry will go some way to addressing medical staffing gaps in hospitals and GP surgeries in the west.”
SDLP leader and Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood said the money was welcome, but warned that extra cash from Stormont is still required.
The Belfast City Deal is also expected to attract matching funding from Stormont, along with cash from councils and university to put the total value above £800 million.
Mr Eastwood said: “The SDLP welcomes confirmation of this significant funding package. The first step in that process is the expansion of Magee as a key skills and economic driver.”
He continued: “What’s important now is that we secure matching funding from a functioning Executive. People in the North West were neglected by the last period of government, they cannot be abandoned by absentee politicians now.”
Ulster Unionist councillor Darren Guy expressed a similar view: “I note that the £105 million is expected to be matched by a similar commitment from the Northern Ireland Executive and other third party sources.
“This makes it more imperative than ever that we get Stormont restored.”