Healthcare study set for shake-up

March 30, 2001

New workforce development confederations for healthcare and a new funding stream for student doctors, dentists, nurses and other health professionals will come into force on April 1.

The confederations, which will replace existing consortiums, will include representatives from higher education. Paul Turner, executive officer of the Council of Deans of Nursing, said: "The confederations are larger than the old consortiums and must be more efficient, with better links with higher education."

They will be responsible for clinical placements for all students on training programmes funded by the National Health Service. They must work with universities to ensure that placements, of high quality and sufficient numbers, foster "multidisciplinary learning".

The confederations will also liaise with the Quality Assurance Agency to develop the "lighter touch" academic review.

"If the form of academic review, as proposed by the secretary of state for education last week, comes into force, 77 per cent of nursing departments and 79 per cent of allied health professions would be exempt," said Eileen Martin, chair of the Council of Deans of Nursing.

Education secretary David Blunkett has proposed that departments with at least three scores of three and three scores of four should be exempt from external review. "We trust that this will apply to these subjects as well as to the rest of higher education, particularly as the recent subject overview reports show they have done so well," Ms Martin said.

On April 1, the three levies that fund the NHS costs of placements for medical, dental, nursing, other healthcare and postgraduate students will be consolidated into the "multi-professional education and training levy" under one team in the Department of Health.

Michael Powell, executive officer of the Council of Heads of Medical Schools, said: "In the short term, we do not envisage substantial changes as it will be a couple of years before the actual funding is fully integrated. However, we will consider detailed proposals for merger carefully to ensure that current levels of funding are maintained."

• The government's strategy for the training and career opportunities of NHS healthcare scientists, published last month, will not work unless some funding is transferred from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to the NHS, the chair-elect of the Heads of University Centres of Biomedical Science has said.

The strategy covers a number of groups, including clinical engineers, medical physicists and biomedical scientists. It proposes reshaping education and training, introducing more flexible career paths and conducting a review of the workforce.

Michael Pitillo, dean of the faculty of health and social care sciences at Kingston and St George's, said: "The confederations have no jurisdiction over Hefce-funded activity, so unless funding is transferred they cannot implement the new strategy."

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