Medical School: North-west

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 11th October 2016.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30 pm, 11th October 2016

T1. Mr Durkan asked the Minister for the Economy whether he has had any discussions, either with his colleague the Health Minister or the university, about the establishment of a medical school in the north-west. (AQT 316/16-21)

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

I have not had any discussions in my current position with the Minister or with the colleagues whom the Member mentions, although it is something that I am familiar with from my time as Health Minister. I am seeking to draw on my knowledge from that time.

There was a very good proposal, although it was in its infancy and early stages and required significant development by the university, to open a graduate medical school in the north-west. That was a good and positive thing that could address two issues in particular. One was high locum costs in the Western Trust area — I have now reverted quickly to my previous role, as the Member will notice — and an issue with general practice, which was raised by Paula Bradley in the House yesterday. Those issues are pertinent to the Western Trust area.

I have not had the discussions that the Member has had, but I expect that we will have discussions as the university develops its plans and ideas for a graduate medical school in the north-west.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I recall in a previous role words of support for this proposal from the Minister. Can the Minister now give the Assembly an assurance of his commitment to making this medical school a reality?

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

I will give the same view now as I did when I was Health Minister, which is that I very much support in principle the idea of developing a graduate medical school in the north-west, as it made sense for the health reasons that I mentioned. Obviously, that has to be done in connection with available finances and all the requisite business cases and so forth. In principle, however, absolutely it is something that I support, and I look forward to working with the university, and, indeed, colleagues to make it happen.