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Monday, January 31, 2005

FOI request - Wells report on NHSU - no progress

On 1st Jan I submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to the Department of Health for publication of the report by Sir Willam Wells into the NHS University (NHSu)
The full text is available on this blog

It is now 20 working days since the request as allowed under the act and I have not received and response (email, telephone or snail mail) from the Department of Health or NHSu, although I did receive a postcard from my MP acknowledging receipt of his copy.

I have today looked at the Departments Freedom of Information complaints process
phined them. I was phoned back by Veronica Fraser (Head of Knowledge Management, Public Enquiries and Complaints Customer Service Centre) who had checked on my application - which had been stamped as being received on 12th Jan (although I posted it on 31st Dec) & suggested it had got delayed in the Xmas post - and that I should receive a response by 8th Feb.

It will be interesting to see whether this occurs.

Several people have complimented me on putting in this request, and asked me about my motivation for doing it...

I have had various dealings with the NHSu and have not been impressed with the experience.
As approx £50 Million of taxpayers money has been spent on this, I feel that there should be a public "right to know" more about what happened.

I have always been a believer that we need the NHS to be a "learning organisation" and have spent the last 20 years or so working on this either from within the NHS or higher education. I have also advocated elearning as a part of this development and felt that the NHSu had the potential to achieve this. I was writing about this sort of work nearly 10 years ago see:
Ward, R 1997 Implications of computer networking and the Internet for nurse education. Nurse Education Today 17, p178-183
Ward, R. 1997 NHSnet: a cost-effective medium for continuing professional education. British Journal of Health Care Computing & Information Management 14(8) p30-33

The formation of the NHSu was a surprise, as I had been at a conference presentation with NHS elearning people only a few weeks before & they were not expecting it - but it seemed to have ministerial clout behind it & therefore a serious budget. As soon as the first consultation came out I wrote 8 pages of comments, which were generally supportive of the concept, but queried some of the proposed delivery and seriously questioned whether trying to develop a "university" was an appropriate role for the NHS. I never received any acknowledgment or response to my comments.

I attended a "consultation" event in Birmingham (14.1.03 - my personal review ) and submitted comments on each consultation document. I also met with a representative of NHSu (after several rearranged dates) as NMAP project manager with colleagues from the BIOME hub of the RDN, and we were promised a further meeting with their curriculum development and IT managers - however this was never forthcoming.

I remained convinced that we need to improve both the learning culture and opportunities within the NHS, however I was always sceptical that the NHSu could achieve this.

When the announcement was made that the NHSu was to be wound up following the Arm's Length Bodies (ALB) review, I heard that the report by Sir William Wells investigating how it had spent £50 Million and achieved very little was produced in very limited numbers (? 7 copies) and restricted so that no one could copy it. I then wrote to my MP suggesting that a copy should be made public (and possibly investigated by the National Audit Office), and received a copy of a letter from John Hutton stating that their intention was to "publish their findings shortly".

I am hopeful that the Wells report will soon be in the public domain.


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