Could Chester have its own University Medical School?

Posted on 19th October 2017

Cheshire, Wirral and Shropshire are three of the few areas of the UK currently without a specialist training facility for doctors, but that could be about to change.

Proposed view from A5480 Deva Link Road/A540 Parkgate Road (Wirral direction)
Proposed view from A5480 Deva Link Road/A540 Parkgate Road (Wirral direction)

The University of Chester is embarking on a journey, which could see residents from those three areas having access to the latest clinical knowledge and research, if plans for Chester Medical School come to fruition.

Most of the highly skilled and competent nurses, midwives, dietitians and biomedical scientists in Cheshire, Wirral and Warrington have undergone their training and development at the University of Chester. 

The University is already involved with six acute hospital trusts (including a close working relationship with the Countess of Chester Hospital dating back over 25 years and sharing research and training facilities,) two mental health trusts and a host of primary care providers.

Through its Postgraduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Life Sciences, the University successfully specialises in a broad portfolio of Master’s degrees in subjects, ranging from Oncology to Orthopaedics. There are also many community-based activities, including providing cardiovascular rehabilitation services for heart attack patients.

Professor Tim Wheeler, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “The NHS at a local and national level is a key part of the University of Chester’s activities. The University is now being given a rare and privileged chance to join an elite of 32 higher education institutions with a medical school.

“This is a significant move for the University, but more importantly, it is a potentially life-changing development for the population of Cheshire, Wirral and Shropshire, three of the few areas of the UK that currently lack a medical school, ensuring a continuing supply of GPs and other highly trained physicians.”

A Chester Medical School would:

  • Help address both national and local shortages of doctors, particularly GPs and specialists in areas such as mental health and gerontology (older people’s medicine)
  • Enable trusts across Cheshire, Wirral and Shropshire to attract and keep hold of the brightest and best medical staff
  • Respond to the complex and challenging needs of an ever-expanding older population for community-based professional care and support from a fully-integrated health and social care service
  • Inspire innovation and the latest research that only medical education can bring to patients in Cheshire, Wirral and Shropshire.

A new Institute of Medicine, established by the University in autumn 2014, has been developing an undergraduate degree in Medicine.

When fully operational, the facility to deliver this would create 90 new roles for academic and professional services staff and would amount to an investment approaching £40 million in the development, construction, equipment and other resources.

Site plan for future Chester Medical School

The University is hoping to construct a 12,000 square metre, state of the art building with cutting edge facilities as part of an extension of its Parkgate Road Campus. Its preferred location is on the University’s land at Glenesk, off Parkgate Road.

This plot has been zoned for the expansion of the University for more than two decades.  Although it has not flooded in living memory, extensive landscaping would be undertaken to eliminate any such risks.

Internally, there would be:

  • Four lecture theatres, with seating capacity ranging from 50 to 300
  • Six science laboratories
  • An anatomy and dissection room (including 3D virtual reality tables) and mortuary
  • Eight seminar rooms
  • A clinic with consulting rooms, which would focus on older people’s medicine (for example, care of patients with dementia, diabetes and heart disease)
  • A library and IT suite
  • A common room
  • Offices
  • Learning spaces
  • Meeting rooms
  • A brasserie
  • Reception and administration areas

Externally, there would be:

  • A tunnel link under the Sustrans cycleway for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to and from the Parkgate Road Campus
  • Parking for 250 vehicles on level, well-drained land, accessed via an internal road
  • Landscaping, including two lakes
  • A two-way entrance/exit off Parkgate Road (staggered between the filling station on the same side and Woodlands Avenue opposite)

Developing the right curriculum takes time and is subject to strict processes and regulations governed by the General Medical Council, Royal Colleges, funding authorities and Department of Health.

The provisional timetable (subject to planning and other approvals) is:

  • Autumn 2017 – extensive consultation with key stakeholders.
  • By Christmas 2017 – an outline planning application for Chester Medical School will be submitted by the University of Chester to Cheshire West and Chester Council.
  • Academic year 2019/2020 – the first annual cohort of 100 medical students would be recruited. 
  • Spring 2019 – construction work would start.
  • June 2021 – the new building would be ready for use.