Published: 05/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5812 Page

What exactly do modern matrons do?

Confused, Lytham

Well, as we all know modern matrons are a very good thing and we should have lots of them.

The problem was that patients didn't trust Mr Milburn or even Mr Blair to do right by the NHS (yes, I know It is hard to credit but we must face facts).

The people they did trust were matrons, but we managed to get rid of them some time ago. So Mr Milburn decided to get matrons back so that patients would start believing him again. And now they do. The Modern Matrons are not really like the old ones who spent all their time making sure the wards were clean and consultants were scared.

We have got the Commission for Health Improvement to do those things now. The new lot do useful things like inventing new forms and giving advice to all and sundry (whether they want it or not, I believe). Overall they've had a huge impact on a few things and are probably ready to take on cardiothoracic surgery by now.

I have just done my A-levels and I wonder if you could advise me what degree course will best equip me for a career in the NHS ?

Gradgrind, Hull.

Well, this is not an easy one. I assume you want to be a manager (who doesn't? ) so you'll have to prepare yourself to go one of two different routes. The first is the traditional scheme where you spend several years on the switchboard, then the postroom, then medical records. Once you have this foundation course under your belt, you can specialise in supplies, information, finance or general duties. Please note that normally only those who have trained in general duties will become chief executives - and then not for long. However, you will probably be near retirement at that stage anyway. Alternatively, do a normal degree (a third in tourism will do), a quick postgrad diploma in organisational mechanics or some such useful topic, six months each in three NHS jobs and then move straight into the chief exec's chair at about 25. You can move on to the private sector in your early thirties and make some money. The advantage of this route (which is very popular these days) is that you do not have to know much about health services to get on.

Why not let Mel help solve your problem?

E-mail her, in the strictest confidence, at: Mdestrange@ healthcare. emap. co. uk