Published: 10/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5946 Page 20

John Edmonstone, MTDS Consultancy, North Yorkshire

Your Training supplement (24 February) describes the demise of the NHSU.

It certainly seems that the NHS has a history of killing off central 'learning' organisations.

In the early 1980s the earliest of these - the NHS Training Authority - was created, but it ran foul of the then statutory bodies and professional associations which feared that it would intrude upon what they saw as their territories. It limped on under various acronyms until the late 1990s when elements of it became absorbed into the NHSP consultancy.

There is therefore a powerful sense of déjà vu when this time round it seems that an unholy alliance of strategic health authorities and universities have killed off the NHSU in the form originally envisaged.

Strategic health authorities (with one or two notable exceptions) are not noted for having a development orientation, their major focus being on performance management.

Universities are facing challenges of their own (top-up fees, international competition) and certainly did not want a new kid on the block.

Perhaps the opening-up of new training and development opportunities for junior, clerical and support staff also triggered anxieties among both clinical professionals and NHS managers who often tend to see resources for learning in a zero-sum way (more for junior staff means less for us).

In the light of the death of NHSU (and the earlier NHSTA) how propitious are the prospects for the new NHS Institute for Learning, Skills and Innovation?

It will absorb the 'rump' of NHSU, plus elements of the Modernisation Agency and the Leadership Centre - but will exclude (for some unknown reason) the quango Skills For Health.

In a few years' time will we be revisiting these matters yet again?