University urged to rethink closure of nursing school

AN influential health body has called for a delay to proposals by a Scottish university to axe its school of nursing.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland, the professional body for nurses, urged Glasgow University not to act before a Scottish Government review of provision in May.

Glasgow University is currently consulting on whether to scrap its School of Nursing and Health Care as part of wider cuts to courses.

In an interview with The Herald earlier this month, Professor Anton Muscatelli, the university principal, said there was concern over the level of demand for nurses in future, with fears of an oversupply.

Workforce projections for 2010/11 show all NHS Boards expecting to reduce the number of nursing posts this year.

In addition, he believes other universities such as Glasgow Caledonian already provide very effective training for nurses – with institutions urged by the Scottish Government not to duplicate courses.

However, supporters of the school argue that its nurses are in extremely high demand – with a 99% employability rate – and that it also undertakes cutting- edge research.

They also argue that the school’s Bachelor of Nursing degree is unique in Scotland because it provides undergraduates with additional leadership and clinical skills.

Now Ellen Hudson, associate director of RCN Scotland, has called for a delay.

“The Scottish Government’s chief nursing officer is leading a review of nursing and midwifery education in Scotland, beginning in May, so we would urge the university to delay any decision about the future of its nursing school until the review is complete,” she said.

Going on to defend the work of the school she added: “The demand for newly qualified nurses from Glasgow University is extremely high and this reflects the high calibre of their nursing programmes.

“Not only that, the nursing school has an excellent reputation for research and is currently funded to carry out research for Macmillan Cancer Support, the Chest, Heart and Stroke Association, and the MS Society.

“Losing a nursing education provider like Glasgow University’s nursing school could mean a lack of overall capacity to deliver …. education for nurses in the future, and could also result in the loss of expertise of staff.”

Other health professionals have also spoken out against the threat, including Christine Moffatt, professor of nursing at Thames Valley University, London.

“I believe this is a very short- sighted approach to remove a faculty that is not only delivering some of the best nurse education in Scotland and England, but which is also developing strong research, which is rapidly growing,” she said.

In a letter to the university, Andrea Stigant, a cancer specialist with NHS Cumbria, added: “The standards of students … at the University of Glasgow are known to be high and I feel that this high benchmark could be lost to future practitioners if schools with such a reputation are forced to close.”

A spokesman for Glasgow University said: “We will, of course, take into consideration the comments of the associate director of the Royal College of Nursing and these will form part of the ongoing consultation process.”

Last month, the university unveiled a list of proposed cuts, including the axing of modern languages such as Czech, German, Russian and Polish.

Other courses facing cuts include nursing, anthropology and social work, as well as its provision of evening and weekend classes. The plans are part of a strategy to find £20m in savings by 2012-13.