How strange that while primary care practitioners are adapting to major new responsibilities, so little attention is being paid to their development needs. The new responsibilities cover huge areas, such as health needs assessment, commissioning secondary care, demand management in primary care, and partnership working.

There needs to be a cohesive national programme for developing a cadre of primary care practitioners, including managers, equipped to discharge these responsibilities effectively.

The recent proposals for the development of nursing, Making a Difference , indicated that nurse consultants would need masters degree-level qualifications. Those leading in primary care require a similar level of academic achievement if the safety and quality of the current development programme is to be assured. Masters-level study needs to be open to practitioners from different backgrounds and available in a variety of formats.

Our own masters in primary care studies at Derby University is one option, and should be part of a coordinated programme between universities and the health service to equip practitioners and the primary care sector for the future.

Dr N H L Starey Dr P H Rivers School of health and community studies Derby University