UCL and podiatry
22 September 2003
It is with great regret that UCL has had to withdraw from providing its podiatry course to students at the School of Podiatry within the London Foot Hospital.
Podiatry at UCL was provided under a contract placed by the NHS currently through its North East London Workforce Development Confederation. Our initial five-year contract with the WDC had expired in 2001. We have since been negotiating with the WDC over a new contract, and demonstrated our goodwill by continuing to run the course even after the expiry of the contract.
Regrettably, the sums of money being suggested by the WDC bore absolutely no relation to the cost of providing the course, and we would simply have been unable to continue running the course to the required standard at the proposed rate. That is why we decided not to tender for the new contract, and I believe that our position has been vindicated by the fact that the contract now placed at UEL offers funding of approximately double that which was on the table for UCL. We also received insufficient guarantees regarding the capital funding for the London Foot Hospital. No responsible and publicly accountable body could possibly have signed the deal on offer from the WDC.
The future of the London Foot Hospital
It is important to be absolutely clear that the future of the London Foot Hospital is in no way jeopardised by the current situation surrounding the teaching of podiatry. The Fitzroy Square site is not deemed safe for patients with disabilities, and was scheduled to close in 2004. The LFH was always going to have to move, and, as I stated above, the lack of clarity on the part of the WDC with regard to the capital funding for that move was an important factor in our refusal to negotiate a new deal. UEL is taking this forward, and is currently considering whether the new Hospital should be located in Huntley Street or in Stratford. UCL's actions can in no way be said to be bringing about either the 'closure' or the relocation of the London Foot Hospital and it is important that this is understood.
We fully appreciate the difficulties posed by the tight timescale, and we are working hard to deliver a satisfactory outcome within those tight constraints. I have to emphasise again that these were not of our making. It is unfortunate that the WDC acted to bring in a new provider from autumn 2003, giving us such a short space of time ensure a satisfactory transition from one provider to another. We made our position clear to the WDC, that we were available to teach the prospective 2003 intake for a year to enable a smoother transition - this offer was not taken up.
Having said that, the links with the UEL have been extremely positive, and I believe the course will continue to be taught to an extremely high standard. There has been full cooperation between our two institutions, and we are confident of our ability to ensure effective quality assurance, so that existing students will receive the University of London degrees as expected. It is also clear that the NHS does not see the long-term future of podiatry training within research-intensive universities, but rather in the newer universities.
I fully accept that our communication with students on the course could have been better. This has partly been hampered by the fact that we did not wish to deal in rumours and speculation, but have rather sought to limit our communications to times when we were able to set out the state of play. The gap between the letters was, with hindsight, too lengthy, and I regret the fact that students may have been further unsettled as a consequence. I am available at any time to meet with the students or representatives, and will answer questions or concerns to the best of my ability.
The situation has been far from ideal, and UCL's decision to stop providing podiatry was not taken lightly. But with the best will in the world, we could not keep on providing the course indefinitely while being unable to receive the minimum guarantees necessary from the funding institution to provide an acceptable standard of tuition. UCL was placed in an impossible position, and, I reiterate, one not of its own making. We will continue to work with UEL to achieve the smoothest possible transition, and also to ensure that the existing UCL podiatry students continue to receive tuition to the standard they would expect. I reiterate that students currently on the podiatry programme at UCL will remain registered with UCL, will continue to follow the UCL curriculum that they started on, and will graduate with a University of London degree conferred by UCL.
Professor Mike Spyer
Vice-Provost (Biomedicine) and Dean of the Medical School