Court battle to save 100 jobs

January 16, 1998

Portsmouth University is threatening to take the National Health Service to court over the loss of a teaching contract, jeopardising 100 jobs.

In November The THES reported a decision by the NHS Executive South and West to award a nursing teaching contract to Southampton and Bournemouth universities and to remove it from Portsmouth University, despite its higher score in the research assessment exercise.

The decision caused alarm at Portsmouth, where 100 jobs are threatened and where existing students could face journeys of up to 40 miles a day to study. It also raised concerns among university nurse educators who are unhappy at the ability of some NHS consortia to manipulate nursing education.

Now Portsmouth University's solicitors have written to the NHS Executive demanding a rerun of the tender for the contract. The university said it believed the original exercise contained "serious flaws", which included the make-up and chairing of the assessment panel and the estimation of future nursing needs in Portsmouth.

The university warned that it would apply for a judicial review to force a rerun of the tender if the executive failed to meet its demands.

Vice chancellor John Craven said: "The issue goes far beyond our own interests which is why we are prepared to take this stand. Our objections to the conduct of the tender and assessment process, and the impact the NHSE's current decision will have on staff, students and the wider Portsmouth community are very clear."

But a statement this week from the NHS Executive South and West rejected the university's claims calling them "wholly unfounded". It added that Portsmouth's tender was evaluated "fairly and reasonably".

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