letters :

Leona Condliffe is guilty of spouting the worst kind of prejudiced claptrap, betraying how out of touch she is with modern theatre services. She grossly misrepresents the operating department practitioner's role by suggesting they are only trained to assist the anaesthetist. ODPs' training encompasses all aspects of theatre care, including the surgical roles and postanaesthetic recovery.

The large number of nurses who fast-track ODP training programmes clearly appreciate this. An important part of the training is planning, implementing and evaluating care. This is not a recent innovation: during my own training I was assessed as competent in understanding the patient's psychological reactions to surgery - in 1979.

Patients' best interests are served by ensuring care is provided by personnel trained to provide it in the specific environment, be they nurses or ODPs.

This places Ms Condliffe on shaky ground, as the 1989 Bevan report 1on the management and utilisation of operating departments identified that less than 14 per cent of nurses working in theatres held a post-basic qualification in any sphere of theatre practice. Hopefully the option for nurses to fast-track ODP training has improved the situation.

Of course, Ms Condliffe may believe that a student nurse's few days' exposure to theatres equips them with the skills to meet patients' peri-operative needs.

I am intrigued by her views on the importance of patient advocacy in theatre. This suggests someone in the operating department is working against the patient's interests. Who could this be?

Thankfully, most theatre managers today are less concerned about their team members' professional backgrounds, having more regard for their training, experience and ability to deliver high standards of care in an often challenging environment.

Bill Kilvington Theatre services manager Ashford & St Peter's Hospitals trust REFERENCE 1 NHSME. The Management and Utilisation of Operating Departments. NHSME Value for Money Unit. December, 1989.