Libraries for OU medics

March 6, 1998

I was interested to read "OU revolution for doctor training" (THES, February 6). The idea of medical students doing the clinical part of their course at district general hospitals and GP practices is not new.

For more than a decade the former Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School (now the Imperial College school of medicine) has provided lectures to peripheral sites by way of an interactive fibre-optic link, the appropriate health trusts being funded for this from the Service Increment for Teaching and Research.

These students, along with others in the health sciences who are based at peripheral hospitals for the clinical element of their course, require full use of a good on-site library/information service with the expertise of a qualified librarian/information officer.

The importance of the libraries has all too often been overlooked. This happened when many on-site nursing libraries were removed to higher education establishments, sometimes as much as 40 miles away, leaving no on-site facilities.

After much negotiation it was acknowledged that adequate facilities were also required on site, but by then the funding had been allocated and further negotiations were required to obtain extra funding, leaving students without adequate facilities for over a year.

Although the guidelines state that SIFTR should be used for library and computer services on peripheral sites, many libraries/ information services still do not receive any funding for their services to medical students.

Provision for on-site library facilities for qualified doctors on postgraduate training is met from the Medical and Dental Education Training budget, but this is not the case for OU postgraduates. Extra on-site library funding will be required. If this OU medical school is to be set up, may I plead that library facilities are addressed and budgets allocated to the hospital libraries before the students embark on their course.

Pat Bowen. Health and medical librarian. West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust

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