University vice-chancellors will this week defend the place of nurse training in higher education following health secretary Frank Dobson's demand for reform.
A delegation from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, led by Janet Finch, vice-chancellor of Keele University and chair of the CVCP health professions committee, will today tell the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting that universities remain the right place to train nurses. The meeting comes amid rumours of lobbying to remove it from universities.
As nursing shortages hit the headlines, Mr Dobson this week said that nurse education needed reform. In a statement to the House of Commons, he said its academic emphasis had put off potential recruits.
He added many newly qualified nurses felt they lacked the practical skills necessary on wards and that the transfer of responsibility to the education sector "has broken the old links between individual hospitals and nurses in training to the disadvantage of both".
Although the Department of Health denies plans to remove nursing from higher education, Mr Dobson's statement does not rule out a transfer.
The CVCP is seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Dobson to "understand the nature of the reforms he has in mind".
Professor Finch said it was still early days for nursing in higher education. "Most programmes came into higher education in 1995," she said.
"Of course it is vital that nurses are trained and equipped to deal with the realities of life on the ward. We do accept that we need to continue to work on this with our NHS partners, and we're confident that we can resolve any difficulties."
But Professor Finch added: "I have been told by a number of people that government ministers have been lobbied in a number of NHS trusts about the belief that having brought nursing training into universities, the NHS is less well served than previously. Ministers are reported to be making sympathetic remarks."
* The nursing pay review board, chaired by former Oxford Brookes vice chancellor Clive Booth, is due to report later this month. Mr Dobson has stressed that the board should give special attention to the pay of nurses on lower grades.