Published: 11/11/2004, Volume II4, No. 5931 Page 6

The ill-fated NHSU looks set to be merged with the Modernisation Agency as part of a shake-up of education and training in the health service.

Senior NHS sources have told HSJ that the Department of Health will announce the two organisations are to join forces following widespread criticism of the health service's corporate 'university', unveiled in Labour's 2001 election manifesto.

The original idea was for a corporate university providing bespoke training for NHS staff.

NHSU had been hoping to gain royal charter status for the body, allowing it to be called a university.

Instead, the new unified organisation - dubbed the NHS Academy - will become a developer of training and educational products with a much narrower remit.

It will join with the Modernisation Agency in its new mission to identify leading-edge practice from around the world and develop ways of making ideas operationally workable in the UK.

One commentator said:

'The problem is ministers got themselves in a terrible mess by promising the NHSU in the manifesto. People thought it meant a proper university awarding degrees, but that was never the intention.

'Ministers will be hoping this change will allow them to keep the spirit of what they were trying to do, but change the organisation.'

HSJ understands that proNHSU officials - including DoH advisor Professor Paul Corrigan and former Unison assistant general secretary and NHS modernisation board member Bob Abberly - are involved in lastminute lobbying of ministers in a bid to try and prevent a full-scale dismantling of the organisation.

An NHSU spokeswoman admitted a merger was being discussed, but said ministers had yet to make a decision.

A DoH spokesman said it is considering a range of options, including, 'closer integration of the two organisations'. He said further details would be announced 'in the next few weeks'.

Michael Scott is director of the Modernisation Agency; the director of the NHSU is Professor Bob Fryer. The management arrangements of the merged organisation are not known.

The agency declined to comment.