The first steps towards a core curriculum for doctors, nurses and other health professionals have been taken by the Quality Assurance Agency's benchmarking groups.
The National Health Service Plan , published in July, called for a common foundation programme to break down what ministers have described as "tribal" barriers between different professional groups in the NHS.
The QAA's benchmarking groups are responsible for establishing minimum standards in their disciplines. The group on nursing, midwifery and health visiting has agreed to work with the group for the NHS-funded professions allied to medicine (Pams) to produce a shared framework of common issues across their professions.
Ruth Howkins, assistant director of development at the QAA, said: "They are not producing a common foundation programme. It will be up to other benchmarking groups, such as those for medicine and dentistry and for Pams funded by the higher education funding council, to look at any shared framework produced to see whether they can use it or not."
Jill Macleod-Clark, professor of nursing at Southampton University and chair of the nursing, midwifery and health-visiting benchmarking group, said: "This is not about undermining professional identity, but about looking at areas such as ethics, communication and assessment skills to see what is shared."
Michael Pittilo, dean of the faculty of health and social care sciences at Kingston University, which works in partnership with St George's Medical School, and head of the benchmarking group for Pams, said: "As well as producing a shared framework, we will also produce separate benchmarking reports for all the specialisms."
The reports are expected to go out for consultation in January.
Robert Stout, dean of the faculty of medicine and health sciences at Queen's University, Belfast, and chair of the benchmarking group on medicine, said: "The priority for medicine is to set out standards that are in line with those of the professional regulatory bodies.
"A shared framework is a secondary issue. While we may support the concept, there are severe practical difficulties," he said.