The Higgins Report, published in 2013, provides the framework for a major reorganization of the acute hospital services in the Republic of Ireland 1. It has recommended that all the acute hospitals be organised into six groups, each with a primary academic partner. UL Hospitals is one of the six groups and is partnered academically with the University of Limerick.
The rationale for an academic partner can be summarised by the ‘4Es’:
- Excellent patient care
- Excellent education
- Excellent research
- Excellent people
Prior to the Higgins’ Report the University of Limerick had a long association with the heath services of the Midwest. The Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences (PESS) has existed on the UL campus since 1972, the Department of Clinical Therapies was established in 2002, rapidly followed by Nursing and Midwifery (2003), and Psychology (2007). The Graduate Entry Medical School was also founded in 2007 with its first graduates qualifying in 2011. These groups together with the Departments of Education and Professional Studies comprise the Faculty of Education and Health Sciences, one of the four major faculties at the University of Limerick. However, several other departments across the university have also interacted with UL Hospitals especially in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, but also in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Kemmy Business School. The University also recognised the contribution to academic medicine of a number of medical specialists at UL Hospitals by awarding them the title of Adjunct Professor.
Today the University of Limerick and UL Hospitals work closely together to provide undergraduate and postgraduate education and training across several campuses and in several disciplines. Structured teaching and self-directed learning programmes operate across both institutions. There are numerous joint clinical-academic appointments and both organisations collaborate extensively on research projects. The presence of an academic partner also attracts and retains health professionals of the highest calibre, who contribute greatly to the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the clinical services delivered to the population.
As stated in the Higgins’ Report the benefits that academia brings to healthcare are:
- A questioning and critical appraisal of established knowledge
- A culture of high quality clinical service
- The generation of new ideas, evidence and products that improve patient care and reduce costs
- Direct benefit to patients
- The delivery of financial gain and contribution to economic growth
- A contribution to international healthcare.
Exciting new developments are the construction of a Clinical Education & Research Centre on the UL Hospitals campus and the development of a Health Research Institute at UL to promote health-related research across both organisations. A key appointment will be that of the Chief Academic Officer who will be a member of the UL Hospitals Executive Management Team and will provide a strong link between UL Hospitals and the University of Limerick.
- Higgins J. The establishment of hospital groups as a transition to independent hospital trusts, a report to the Minister of Health, Dr James Reilly, TD. Department of Health, 2013, available at: (http://www.dohc.ie/publications/IndHospTrusts.htm)