A healthy partnership

November 28, 1997

It was good to see coverage of the changes in non-medical education and training (THES, November 21).

Thousands of students are involved in NHS-contracted education. There may well be "alarm at control by consortia" but Julia Hinde misses two points.

First, the professional education of nurses and other health professionals invariably involves placement in NHS trusts. This usually amounts to half the student's educational experience and requires much time and commitment from trust staff. Thus a partnership between the NHS and universities is the only way of providing this. Consortia of trusts have a critical role to play in facilitating the partnership, enhancing placement learning and ensuring the relevance of education in a changing healthcare system.

Second, and paradoxically, it is inappropriate for NHS consortia to be contract holders, "commissioning" education and being the arbiters of its quality, when they make up 50 per cent of provision. It would be more logical for the contracts to be held by a regional or a national body contracting with a consortia comprised of a partnership between local trusts and one or more universities.

David Cox, University of Central England, Birmingham

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