Published: 30/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5925 Page 24

The coverage of the future of NHSU in your pages will help to inform discussions between ourselves, the Department of Health and ministers about the most appropriate remit and structure for us as we go forward (The Big Story, pages 12-13, 23 September). I would like to clarify a number of misconceptions about NHSU, some of which were reflected in last week's article.

We are clear that our first priority is to meet the targets for the delivery of programmes and services set out in our strategic plan.We are aware that there has been a growing impatience within the sector to see NHSU delivering programmes and services - an impatience we share. The timescales have been dictated by the need to balance speedy development with appropriate consultation with interested parties and rigorous trialling, as is appropriate for a learning organisation.As your article recognises, our plans are now beginning to bear fruit, and the response from the 200 or so trusts where our programmes are beginning to roll out has been excellent.

We also recognise the need to continue developing relationships with partners within the NHS.You are correct in saying that progress was somewhat hampered by the reorganisation of workforce development confederations last year.

However, one misconception reflected in HSJ is that we have been unduly focused on attaining university title.

This has been a ministerial remit, but it has not diverted us from the task of setting up a strong regional network of small teams focused on developing local partnerships with the NHS.

Future funding is of course an issue, but it is one that we believe will be resolved if our NHS partners see that we are providing high-quality, value-for-money learning programmes that meet their needs and address the agenda of improving health and social care.

Barbara Stephens OBE Chair NHSU