Nursing deans plea for lighter touch from QAA

August 10, 2001

Nursing deans are lobbying the Department of Health and the Quality Assurance Agency to include National Health Service-funded courses in the "lighter touch" quality assurance blueprint.

The Council of Deans of Nursing is concerned that proposals put out at the end of July by the QAA excluded NHS-funded courses.

Eileen Martin, chair of the council, said: "NHS-funded courses must be aligned with the rest of the sector. There is no valid reason to exclude them."

Courses in nursing, midwifery and allied health professions are funded by the NHS. Academics in these departments are frustrated that attempts to streamline quality arrangements have not worked.

The DoH is finalising a contract with the QAA to pilot a new academic review system.

The health courses had long been subject to over-burdensome quality assurance procedures, Ms Martin said. "As well as meeting the requirements of the QAA, these courses have produced annual reports for their own institution's internal procedures, annual or more frequent reports for the NHS commissioning bodies who contract the courses, and annual reports for the professional and statutory bodies," she said.

Julie Swan, director of development at the QAA, said: "We are aiming for a lighter touch, but one consistent with courses where there is a strong public interest in assuring quality."

In the subject review round just completed by the QAA, 77 per cent of nursing and midwifery departments scored 21 or better, as did 79 per cent of allied health profession reviews.

A DoH spokesperson said: "For this provision there is a key public-protection issue. The new system of academic review for NHS-funded provision has been designed on a collaborative basis between the major stakeholders - higher education, regulatory and professional bodies and NHS employers. We are putting in place six prototype reviews to test the system over 2001-02."

The department is developing memoranda of understanding with the new regulatory bodies for these professions, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health Professions Council, to minimise duplication.

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