HEE and SGU partnership will have mutual benefits

Hon Pamela Moses, Ministry of Education, Dr G Richard Olds, President of SGU, Professor Ian Cumming, CEO of HHE and Hon. Nickolas Steele, Ministry of Health

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • SGU has become the first medical school in the Caribbean to sign an agreement with Health Education England
  • Graduates will take part in postgraduate medical training through WAST Programme

One of the major challenges facing the Caribbean region and the world’s healthcare system is the shortage of nurses and doctors.

A survey by the British Medical Association highlighted a chronic shortage of doctors, with 7 out of 10 hospital doctors (71%) and warned there are gaps in shift rotas in their department.

This situation has prompted medical institutions such as Health Education England (HHE) to enter into partnerships with medical universities to recruit overseas postgraduate doctors to take part in Postgraduate Medical Training through the Widening Access to Specialty Training (WAST) Programme.

St George’s University (SGU) has become the first medical school in the Caribbean to sign such an agreement. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Dr G Richard Olds, President of SGU and Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive of Health Education England (HEE) during a ceremony held at SGU.

This MOU will allow 50 to 100 medical graduates from SGU to access postgraduate medical training in England.

Dr Olds says this will have mutual benefits for both countries. “England and the United Kingdom, in general, is experiencing the same type of physician shortage as the United States and prior to me becoming president of SGU, I discussed with HEE of the opportunity that SGU through such partnership arrangement can help some of the physician shortage in England. I suggested several ideas that are not only characteristic of our medical school, but several other international medical schools specifically designed around training doctors that society needs — in the case of the UK becoming general practitioners and psychiatrists, so there are great advantages of physicians to train side by side with other medical students that come from many cultural backgrounds, and that’s adds to their ability to become better physicians.”

SGU graduates between 15 and 20 Grenadian medical doctors a year and concerns were raised during this morning’s ceremony that this partnership will negatively affect the number of available doctors in Grenada.

The question of how this partnership will affect Grenada was posed to Hon. Nickolas Steele, Minister for Health. “This is not a new idea. In the 50s and 60s many Grenadians qualified in medicine. Nurses, in particular, went to the UK and assisted in making the NHS what it is today. As far as I am concerned as SGU grows so does Grenada, so while these doctors get their further qualification, they will be serving the NHS, but those who find Grenada near and dear to their hearts, I am sure will return better qualified to serve their country. So particularly with regards to local students under scholarship, they have a bond with the government and it is in our best interest to ensure that before they come back to serve that bond, that they are fully qualified because they would have had the opportunity to train in a hospital environment that is closure to our social health structure.”

The location of training for those on the WAST programme will be assigned by HEE, with most programmes focusing on areas of acute shortage, predominantly in the Midlands, East, North and South West of England, Yorkshire, and the Humber. Successful applicants will be offered their highest available location preference.

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