South East Wales

Cardiff University medical school cuts plan 'absurd'

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Media captionProf Craig Currie said it was 'bizarre' to cut research in cardiology while heart disease was such a big killer in Wales

Plans to cut 63 medical academics at Wales' biggest medical school have been branded "absurd".

Senior academics said proposals put forward by Cardiff University School of Medicine could make it more difficult to recruit and retain high calibre doctors in Wales.

The university's dean denied claims that patients and the NHS will suffer.

Prof John Bligh said cutting areas of research will strengthen it and keep it "ahead of competition".

There is particular concern that the Medic Forward restructuring plan could impact on heart disease research in Cardiff and senior academics say the plan is "absurd".

Heart disease is the biggest killer in Wales and rates here are among the highest in Europe.

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A senior professor, who did not want to be named, told BBC Wales: "Disinvesting in this area will be a major loss for Cardiff.

"It will mean high level doctors in this needy subject won't come to Wales as they claim it won't see it as a high level place to come to research ... this will deplete the strength of the NHS in Wales."

He said it would have an impact on high level doctors "which we desperately need in Wales" to raise the quality of care and help generate new ideas.

Another senior academic added: "We appreciate you can't undertake research into everything but this has been done so quickly, without warning."

Prof Bligh argued the school would not be cutting heart research completely and would concentrate on specific areas such as cellular function of the heart, congenital heart disease and looking at what impact behaviours such as smoking and drinking have on heart disease.

He said the restructuring will allow the school to strengthen other research areas, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease and autism, where he claims it can compete with the best in the world.

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Media captionProf John Bligh says the plan will enable the school to concentrate on the very best research

There have also been concerns that if the restructuring plans are implemented, the university would have to return millions of pounds of research grants awarded from external bodies.

The British Heart Foundation funds a professorship and recently awarded a £1m grant into heart research.

BBC Wales has been told that post is no longer under threat and no money would have to be returned.

The university also said it consulted with the NHS and the Welsh government about the plans, but Prof Bligh admitted lessons can be learned about how plans were communicated to staff and students.

PhD students have raised concerns that the move could leave them without anybody to supervise their theses next year.

The University and College Union has called on bosses to reconsider the proposals and the British Medical Association recently passed a motion "deploring" the proposed changes.

Cardiff University's governing body, the university council, will meet in June to decide how the restructuring plans will move forward.

The medical school hopes to complete the reorganisation by spring 2016.

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