Sheffield axes nurse courses

July 22, 2005

Sheffield University, one of the largest providers of nursing qualifications, is to close its nursing and midwifery courses. The closure could prove politically damaging to the Government, which is trying to increase the number of nurses as part of reforms to the National Health Service.

The Council of Deans for nursing faculties said it was concerned and blamed the Government for dragging its feet in reforming the system of competitive tendering for nursing education.

Strategic health authorities contract universities, typically on a five-year basis, to provide courses. The council wants rolling contracts, a model contract and more standardised pricing.

Dame Jill Macleod Clark, chair of the council, said: "This decision by Sheffield University emphasises the importance of these agreements being concluded. Failure to do so may result in loss of valuable national expertise."

The university confirmed that South Yorkshire Strategic Health Authority wrote to it with a proposal to shift half of Sheffield's provision to Sheffield Hallam University.

Sheffield examined the proposal but "costs and operational difficulties" have led to the decision to close the courses altogether.

The university has more than 2,000 nursing and midwifery students and 200 nursing academics and support staff. It is expected that the provision will be transferred to another university. No redundancies are planned.

A spokesperson for the South Yorkshire SHA said that the university's response would go back to its board.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the DoH was finalising a benchmark price and national model contract for nursing and allied health professions.

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