Hostility leaves NHSU on shaky ground

August 23, 2002

"Bitter legacies" could cripple the government's manifesto commitment to the National Health Service University, according to analysis from the Nuffield Trust.

From Conception to Birth: A Policy Analysis of the NHS University looks at the reasons behind the hostility to the NHSU from many in academia, who fear that resources will be diverted and provision duplicated.

There are fears that the NHSU will encroach on pre-registration education, which can account for a third of some universities' incomes, despite assurances to the contrary. No budget has yet been announced for the NHSU.

The analysis charts the fight by nurse educators to gain recognition in universities and to escape the service demands of the NHS.

The analysis says: "The uncoupling of education and service was in some ways almost as disastrous as its initial coupling.

"It has left legacies of demoralisation, tension, mutual recrimination and sometimes rank despair in relations between the university nursing departments and the NHS."

The NHSU is "starting out in a world of tense and complex relationships, where fault and blame are close to the surface and where government has taken more control of the agenda than ever".

Celia Davies, author of the analysis and professor of healthcare at the Open University, said: "More people need to be involved in shaping the NHSU."

The idea for the NHSU came from Jenny Simpson, chief executive of the British Association of Medical Managers and mother of a child who needs frequent health service care.

"She tells a story of how car park staff at Disney in the US, trained through the company's corporate university in first aid... came to her aid," the analysis says.

The experience "prompted her to find out more about corporate universities and to develop the argument that empathy and other values were important as part of the core educational programme for everyone joining the NHS".

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