Stewart challenges Health Secretary to agree the Highlands & Islands is the most suitable location for proposed new medical school

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has questioned Jeane Freeman, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, about the SNP’s plans for a new medical school as laid down in its Programme for Government.

Mr Stewart, at Portfolio Questions in Holyrood this week, questioned the Cabinet Secretary on whether she would agree the Highlands & Islands was the most suitable location.

Speaking in chamber, Mr Stewart, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health, said: “One key aspect of NHS Workforce Planning, post-Brexit, is the creation of a new medical school, as promised by the Programme for Government.

“Does the Cabinet Secretary share my view that there is a strong case to be made for the new school to be located within Highlands & Islands as part of the UHI network. Does she agree that this would make sense in workforce planning terms for the doctors of the future and would also send a clear message that Highlands & Islands is a vibrant and dynamic area to live and work in?

Congratulating him for being the first MSP to battle for the new building, Mrs Freeman said: “Every credit to Mr Stewart for being the first to take the opportunity in the chamber to argue for his area. Many have come forward and made cases about what we might do in terms of that government commitment to a new medical school, which I think is needed in any case. We need to increase the numbers of our young people that we are offering that opportunity to. As I’ve said to him and to others, I am waiting to see what offers and options come forward including from our existing medical schools who have also stepped forward in terms of telling us what it is possible for them to do. We will carefully consider all of those propositions but what we will aim to do is ensure equity of access and maximum opportunity for our young people and others in Scotland to train to be a doctor and then to be employed in our health service in Scotland.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Stewart said: “The government has a duty to the people of the Highlands & Islands to use every possible method to avert a medical staffing crisis that threatens patients and services. And given the difficulty of attracting GPs and doctors to the region, a medical school could act like a magnet for those much-needed workers. I will campaign with intensity for this new medical centre to be created and for it to be located in my home constituency where it is needed the most.