Promise on medicine brings relief

October 17, 1997

THE DEPARTMENT of Health this week gave a firm assurance that it had no plans or "desire" to take over any more funding of medical education.

Doctors feared a move on medical training when health secretary Frank Dobson recently announced that the DOH would pay fifth, and where appropriate, sixth-year medical and dental students' tuition fees and offer means-tested bursaries.

But Jill Newton, head of workforce planning and education at the NHS executive, confirmed: "This is the only thing that is going to be transferred. There is no desire to move any more than the Pounds 1,000 and to maintain a reasonable level of support for people on long courses." She added that the DOH's move to support medics was to maintain a broad mix of medical students. She said the prospect of tuition fees in every year "may have perturbed poorer students".

"That is a risk our secretary of state did not wish to take," she added.

Steve Tomlinson, heads of university medical schools secretary, called the confirmation "wonderful".

"I think that will reassure many deans who were concerned this transfer may have set a precedent," he said.

Ms Newton said transferring funding of nursing and allied courses from the Department for Education and Employment to the DOH would help ensure a stable workforce and mean these courses becoming more employer-led.

Future arrangements for funding research are still being discussed with the Higher Education Funding Council for England. But Ms Newton said: "I would strongly expect that the unit cost for England will be based on current levels of institutional funding in these particular subject areas."

The NHS has promised that in 1998 it will take on the same numbers of students in nursing and allied professions in the same institutions as last year.

* A further Pounds 50 million to boost the training of medics, nurses,midwives and therapists has been announced by the DOH.

The money will be used tosupport the growing intakes into medical schools, with 250 extra clinical placements being funded, as well as money for 390 more junior doctor appointments.

The money will also be used to provide 1,000 extra training places for nurses, midwives and therapsists.

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