MOD in health contract spat

February 6, 1998

THE MINISTRY of Defence has awarded Portsmouth University Pounds 600,000 to train its nurses just months after the National Health Service withdrew a similar contract.

A spokesman for Portsmouth University said: "The MOD and the NHS heard the same presentations, worked from the same documents and yet came to such different decisions. The MOD seemed satisfied with the quality and price. This puzzles us and adds to our bewilderment."

The contract awarded to Portsmouth covers nurse training for the Royal Navy, army and air force, but is unlikely to safeguard 100 teaching jobs threatened by withdrawal of the NHS contact.

The NHS Executive South and West, which buys nurse training places from the university, announced in November that it will move its contract to Southampton and Bournemouth universities from March.

This is despite Portsmouth gaining higher scores in the research assessment exercise. The decision to move the contracts has caused anger in Portsmouth and raised concern among nursing unions and educators as to the criteria used by NHS consortia.

The case has now been raised in the House of Commons by Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock. In a letter this week to Alan Milburn, minister of state for health, Mr Hancock says: "I have been disturbed to read that one of the panel who made the decision on the award of the contract of Southampton University was appointed a few days later to be head of personnel with Southampton University. This has caused considerable unease and unrest in the Portsmouth area."

Tony Strike, director of human resources for Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, was on the tender assessment panel that met in October. He starts as director of human resources at Southampton University in April, but this week denied any wrong doing.

"If Mr Hancock was to ask me he would be satisfied the two events are entirely separate. The proof of that is in the dates on which events occurred. Any suggestion the two are linked is inaccurate." He was unaware of the Southampton University vacancy until after the NHS executive met.

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