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North Cumbria joins forces with University of Central Lancashire to develop medical education in West Cumbria

18 March 2015

Chris Theobald

UCLan signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. 

Pictured left to right: Dr Suresh Rao, chair of the medical staff committee at North Cumbria, medical director Dr Jeremy Rushmer and Dr Rick Wylie, academic director of UCLan's Westlakes campus.

The future development of medical education, training and research opportunities in West Cumbria have received a boost thanks to the signing of a landmark agreement.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) which has a campus at Westlakes Whitehaven, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, to develop future educational opportunities in West Cumbria linked to undergraduate medicine and related activities such as dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and policy.

The positive news comes as UCLan prepares for its first intake of international medical students from September 2015 on its new five-year undergraduate ‘Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)’ course which has been recently approved to commence by the General Medical Council.

While the specific projects and collaborations under the MOU are to be agreed, this important milestone outlines the firm intentions of North Cumbria’s hospitals to collaborate with UCLan to explore and exploit many anticipated future opportunities.

The new UCLan course is a five year programme with an inaugural intake of 35 students who will begin their training this autumn. Whilst these students will be based at the University’s newly approved medical school in Preston, early discussions are already underway about increasing recruitment to incorporate the Westlakes campus and take full advantage of the new state-of-the-art West Cumberland Hospital set to open in Whitehaven.

“If our future ambitions to work in Cumbria are fully realised then we will have a fantastic opportunity to improve skills, research and staff recruitment and retention.”

UCLan’s Professor Stjohn Crean, Dean, School Medicine and Dentistry, said: “We are delighted to have signed this agreement with North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. In September 2015 we will launch our five-year undergraduate Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) which has been designed in close partnership with East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT). This new agreement is looking to the future and provides us with the opportunity to expand the programme into West Cumbria, possibly from 2017.

“Our Westlakes campus, which is in sight of the new West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, will play a key role in this development acting as an additional base for our educational activities. If our future ambitions to work in Cumbria are fully realised then we will have a fantastic opportunity to improve skills, research and staff recruitment and retention. The ‘halo effect’ of this programme will mean we can help attract students, staff and research opportunities to Whitehaven and West Cumbria.

“This initiative has wide stakeholder support and the University would like to put on record its thanks to Jamie Reed MP and Sir Tony Cunningham MP who played key roles to help us achieve our vision.”

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “This is a very exciting development and one which has the support of so many people. The engagement from medical staff across our organisation and within our training programmes has been universal and everyone sees the potential in this new relationship.

“The engagement from medical staff across our organisation and within our training programmes has been universal and everyone sees the potential in this new relationship.”

“Whilst it will be many years before we see the fruits of this work with more doctors physically working in our hospitals, we know this is a hugely positive step in the right direction to help address some of the longstanding issues we face in relation to our workforce, particularly in West Cumbria.

“We now look forward to working with UCLan to take this work forward and, in the long term, attract more medical trainees to West Cumbria as we continue to improve patient care and prepare for the opening of our fantastic new hospital in Whitehaven.”

Copeland MP and Shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed added:

"This memorandum of understanding marks a major milestone in securing the future sustainability of the West Cumberland Hospital. The agreement between North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust and the University of Central Lancashire will see new joint posts and a rotation of medical students throughout the West Cumberland Hospital which will bring in new expertise for the benefit of patient care.

“The issues around recruitment and retention at the West Cumberland Hospital are well documented and this is a step in the right direction for addressing this long standing issue. This partnership will help Cumbria to ‘Grow our Own’ medical talent. This joint venture can help provide an innovative roadmap for the delivery of a sustainable workforce for health services in Cumbria. This new alliance marks the first step in a long relationship which will benefit the University and Cumbria for many years to come.”