University rises to challenge in bid to strengthen NHS for future generations

Health leaders from the University of Sunderland are supporting ambitious plans to strengthen the NHS for future generations.

The University has already submitted a bid to central government to triple the size of its successful medical school.

This ambitious bid means that instead of recruiting 100 new medical students each year, the University will be aiming to recruit 300, meaning that the size of the School of Medicine would grow to 1,500 students by early next decade.

Further to the announcement, health experts from the University today added their voice to the call from Universities UK (UUK) for significant changes to healthcare education and training in order to meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan (LTWP).

UUK says a number of challenges still need to be overcome if the LTWP is to meet its objectives and prevent the talent pipeline from drying up. This includes a need for universities like Sunderland to expand health education capacity, and for a culture shift to take place within the NHS to place more value on students and educators.

Professor Laura Stroud, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Health Sciences and Wellbeing at the University, said: “At Sunderland we are committed to play our part in rising to the challenges before us; our staff have the enthusiasm and expertise to inspire future generations of health and social care professionals and we have already signalled our intent to triple our intake into Medicine and to harness innovation opportunities across all the healthcare professions we train.

“From paramedicine to sports and exercise physiology, we have the superb facilities and multi-disciplinary teams to enable and challenge us to think creatively about population and healthcare needs and crucially, what we might do differently to support the workforce and training agenda.”

UUK is setting out a five-point plan to meet the objectives of the LTWP:

  • Boosting student recruitment
  • Increasing the numbers of educators
  • Investing in new facilities and infrastructure including new technologies
  • Increasing placement capacity
  • Improving learner experience and reducing attrition

The University of Sunderland’s capital plan now includes £20m of investment to further the development of the School of Medicine and ensure that students are taught in some of the best facilities in the country.

With a professions-facing ambition, the University is fundamental to ensuring Sunderland and the north-east is equipped with an appropriately skilled, graduate-level, health-care workforce, who want to remain living and working in the area.

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University, said: “Taking our medical school as an example, expanding it will enable more opportunities for students from Sunderland and the north-east to train as doctors, given that they are scandalously underrepresented presently in the overall UK medical school numbers. We want similar opportunities to be available for all future healthcare professionals.”

In March this year, there were at least 112,000 vacancies across the health workforce. The aim now is to ramp up training and double medical school places nationally from 7,500 to 15,000 students, each year, by 2031. It also aims to increase nursing, midwifery and allied health training places to 72,400 by the same time.

Professor Alistair Fitt, Universities UK’s health policy lead, and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, said: “With political consensus on the need to significantly increase the number of healthcare professionals over the coming years, now is a pivotal moment to protect the future of the NHS in England.

“To develop a well-staffed and efficient NHS, the UK Government must work closely with universities to fund the plan over the next 15 years, spanning general elections and spending reviews. We must take bold decisions to ensure the conditions are right for universities to train staff adequately, including on funding and capital investment, staffing and student recruitment.”


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