Published: 07/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5926 Page 26

Having read your 'Big Story' on the NHSU (pages 12-13, 23 September), as chair of the South West steering board for pre-employment I wish to add my opinion to that of South Yorkshire workforce development confederation chief executive Barbara Walsh, who said organisations should be given longer to prove themselves.

Our steering board was set up under the auspices of the NHSU and Tomorrow's People Trust (a national charity that helps the long-term unemployed back into work).

It has brought together NHS organisations (hospitals, primary care trusts, GP surgeries), Jobcentre Plus and colleges of further education in the South West.

It is developing new approaches to recruitment and training, specially designed to help the most socially excluded: for example, we are working towards creating pathways for those patients on incapacity benefit - but who are unable to engage with other forms of social help - to progress towards dedicated jobs and training in the NHS.

This work meets all kinds of government agenda, not to mention the social and personal advantages to these patients.

But it takes time. I would just say that my own experience has been that the NHSU and, specifically, colleagues in their 'widening participation' scheme, have proved invaluable in help, support, interest and willingness always to try to find solutions that meet everyone's needs.

Linda Hughes Chair South West steering board for pre-employment Vice-patron Tomorrow's People Trust Sunderland Teaching primary care trust has worked with the NHSU since inception and became an early affiliated trust.

We have found, as a new organisation, that NHSU's First Contact Care (a programme that enables allied health professionals to see, treat and diagnose patients) has been very well received. We have also used NHSU's Working With the NHS programme, which has fitted well with our own newly developed induction programme.

Vicki Taylor Human resources director Sunderland Teaching PCT