More medical students will study for their whole degree in north Wales as part of plans to expand the region’s training programme.
The C21 North Wales programme, which is delivered in partnership between Cardiff and Bangor Universities, allows students to study in north Wales with a greater focus on community medicine and a wide range of placements including a full year at a GP surgery.
The Welsh Government, which funds the initiative, has announced it will be expanded from 20 students to 25 this year and to 40 students in next year’s intake.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan, who visited Bangor University to meet key academic staff on Thursday, said: "I want to give even more students the opportunity to study while embedded in our north Wales communities because we are committed to delivering care as close to people’s homes as possible.
"We know there are challenges to recruiting staff to north Wales, which is why we want to nurture medical students educated here and encourage them to stay, first through the extremely successful C21 North Wales Programme, and longer term, through a north Wales medical school.
"The North Wales Medical School Task and Finish Group have reported back to me, and I will be establishing a Programme Board to implement their recommendations and to work to establish an independent north Wales medical school."
Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, said: "It is excellent news that the success of the C21 NW Medicine partnership is being recognised after the hard work that has been put in by the teams in Bangor and Cardiff.
"The programme is now well established with excellent student feedback and Cardiff University School of Medicine will continue to build capacity for medical education, in partnership, to deliver on the ambitions of the region."
Year three student Emily Viggers said she chose to study on the C21 North Wales to help her strike the right work-life balance.
"If you want to be part of a really close-knit community of medical students, it’s such a fantastic way to learn because everyone helps each other. It’s a fantastic opportunity - I wouldn’t be anywhere else studying medicine."
Dr Esyllt Llwyd, Year 3 GP tutor, said: "I can honestly say that having the student here enriches my general practice experience and hopefully that of my patients as well."
Professor Stephen Riley, Head of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine and Dean of Medical Education, said: "Our journey to change how medical education is delivered in more rural parts of Wales started with embedding students in Welsh communities and GP Practices and developed into the C21 programme in collaboration with Bangor University.
"These innovations have set the scene for the introduction of a North Wales Medical School. We will continue to find evidence based ways to provide excellent student and patient centred medical education to promote recruitment and retention of the medical workforce in Wales."
Iwan Davies, Vice-Chancellor, Bangor University said: "Bangor University welcomes the expansion of the C21 North Wales Programme building on the successful partnership with Cardiff University as an important step in accelerating the process of establishing an independent research-led Medical School in Bangor for North Wales."
Swansea University’s Graduate entry medicine programme will also be funded to offer an extra 25 students in 2021.