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New Medical School to strengthen Birmingham's health credentials 

Aston Medical School

12 June 2014

Aston University has announced plans for a new Medical School which will train a new generation of doctors in the heart of Birmingham. 

The proposed Aston Medical School (AMS) will cater for 100 medical students each year and include a research institute focused on vascular disease. Planned for opening in autumn 2017, the School will be based on Aston University’s campus in Birmingham City Centre.  

The Aston Medical School, backed by Trusts and Clinics throughout the region, will have a strong emphasis on individual scholarships and financial assistance programmes to encourage social mobility within the West Midlands. 

A total of 20 medical scholarships will be specifically earmarked for students within Birmingham and the Black Country from ‘hard to reach communities’. The remainder will be open to international students, which will in-turn help to fund the scholarship programme. 

Trainee doctors will study for five years, and qualify with an MBChB degree (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Science) and a ‘mini’ MBA, providing clinical and business training. 

The School’s research arm - the Aston Medical Research Institute - will focus on vascular disease and particular areas concerning women’s health such as pre-natal conditions, problems during pregnancy and complications brought on by age-related illness. 

The Boards of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust; Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust; Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group;  Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust have all given formal approval for their organisations to partner with Aston Medical School. 

The development of a new Medical School will build upon Aston University’s pioneering health research, including optometry, age related illnesses such as dementia and chronic diseases including diabetes. The University is also home to the Aston Brain Centre, which specialises in epilepsy, dyslexia, autism, ADHD and sleeping disorders. It provides a referral service for the National Health Service and houses abrain scanner specifically for children – one of only three in the world.    

Professor Asif Ahmed, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Health at Aston University, who is leading the project for Aston, believes an additional Medical School for Birmingham will complement and strengthen Birmingham’s reputation for healthcare innovation. 

He said: “The Aston Medical School will create local doctors for the local region and will undertake research capable of addressing the region’s serious health inequalities. Birmingham as a City has an extremely young population and shockingly its infant mortality rate is 60% above the national UK average. This serious problem and others such as high levels of obesity and early death rates are all regional and UK wide issues that we want to address through our training and research. I’m extremely excited to be involved in this project which aims to tackle social mobility, infant mortality and engage communities at a low cost to the public purse.” 

Professor Dame Julia King, Vice Chancellor of Aston University, said: “A new Medical School would be of fantastic benefit to the region’s health and economy, and would be a fitting tribute to the Institution’s 50th year as a University in 2016. We’ve a proud heritage in medicine, ophthalmic and pharmaceutical research. A new medical school, training the next generation of doctors and health researchers would emphasise our continued commitment to health and community engagement.”

The Aston Medical School will be based in Aston’s existing Nelson Building –currently home of Aston Business School. The Business School will move to existing buildings on Aston’s campus –formally occupied by Birmingham City University’s (BCU) Faculty of Arts, before BCU’s move to Eastside. Aston Students’ Union will also relocate to former BCU premises on Campus – bringing currently unoccupied buildings back into use.

Praise and support for Aston Medical School 

Dr Mark Newbold, Chief Executive of Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are very pleased indeed to be a partner in this truly exciting development for Birmingham. A second medical school for the second city will bring more leading edge expertise and health research into the area, and provide real benefit to people in the City with poorer health outcomes. The Trust looks forward to working with Aston University and other partners to support local students to train as doctors and contribute to improving health in our communities.” 

Toby Lewis, Chief Executive, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "We welcome this ambitious plan to expand access to medical training to local children from the communities that we serve.  We look forward to working with Aston University and others to build on our existing tradition of excellence in medical education.” 

Dr Nick Harding, Chair of the Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This partnership offers a unique and ground-breaking opportunity for local students who would otherwise not have the funding or financial capability to pursue a career in medicine. This benefits the students themselves as clinicians of the future, and also supports the local area through research to improve local outcomes.” 

John Short, Chief Executive of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Birmingham is a city of tremendous vitality and diversity and we are very pleased to support the development of a second medical school in the City.  This development offers the opportunity to attract new and exciting local people into the medical profession, deliver new areas medical expertise and research focus and provide further opportunities to improve the health of our many communities.” 

Tim Watts, High Sheriff of the West Midlands and Lifetime President of Pertemps Network Group, said: "Aston University has for many years been at the cutting-edge of medical research and this latest project will further enhance its reputation. During my year as High Sheriff, I have made it my aim to shine a light on the innovations that make this region stand out and few projects are as ground-breaking as the launch of Aston Medical School. Not only is this a huge boost for students from hard to reach communities, but it will also create local doctors for the local area; improving the health and well-being of communities."

For further media information please contact Alex Earnshaw, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4549 or a.earnshaw@aston.ac.uk 

Notes to Editors 

Aston University: Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established research-led University known for its world-class teaching quality and strong links to industry, government and commerce. Professor Dame Julia King became Vice-Chancellor of the University in 2006. Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for over 25 years. The University is currently ranked 8th overall for graduate employment in the 2013 Sunday Times University Guide. 

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust: One of the largest Hospital Trusts in England. The organisation includes Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Solihull Hospital and Community Services, Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham Chest Clinic. 

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust: One of the largest National Health Service teaching Trusts in England. It comprises Sandwell General Hospital in West Bromwich, Birmingham City Hospital and Rowley Regis Hospital. 

Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group:  Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group is a membership organisation involving 110 GP practices serving around 530,000 patients across the Sandwell and West Birmingham area. The Commissioning Group is broken down further into five Local Commissioning Groups - Black Country, Healthworks, ICoF, Pioneers for Health and Sandwell Health Alliance - that address the needs of the population on a very local level. 

 Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust: The Trust provides mental health care to those people living in Birmingham and Solihull who are experiencing mental health problems.  It operates from over 60 sites in a variety of settings, from community based mental health teams through to acute wards and day centres.