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The nurse unit finally ceased operation last term on Friday, Week Ten after ten years of service to students. The decision to close down the facility was made at the beginning of Michaelmas Term and was met with criticisms from students and staff alike.
The university cited cost saving and availability for external healthcare provisions as some of the reasons for the decision. However, the lack of consultation and open discussion has resulted in student protest and the resignation of one of University Council’s members. The nurse unit staff who were also terminated expressed their disappointment with the university management’s decision.
“It has been done deceitfully. All the nurses have to be made redundant. Some got other full-time jobs but some didn’t. Some of us can’t find a replacement job. We were only told about it about a month ago but we heard some talks over the summer. There was no consultation whatsoever”, said a nurse who declined to be named in an interview in the final week of nurse unit’s operation.
She added, “They say it’s because of the money but they go put up flags and build the sports centre. No money for nurse unit?”
In Week Six, Lancaster Unviersity Students’ Union (LUSU) organised a student demonstration near Lancaster House. Professor Peter Diggle from School of Health and Medicine resigned from the University Council in protest of the decision. However, LUSU Vice President of Equality, Welfare and Disability Pete Macmillan appeared to be pessimistic of any positive outcome out of this; “other than ask people like the vice chancellor, chief operating officer and director of Students Based Services to come out and explain their reasons for shutting the nurse unit, there isn’t an awful lot that we can do”, Macmillan said. He added: “If there has been grassroot support from the start, then maybe that would have been changed.”
Along with the decision to close down the nurse unit – which provided services for students, staff and visitors on campus between 2000-2010 – the university management decided to allocate more resources to provide mental health support for students. According to Macmillan, the service will only effectively be operation in Summer Term 2011.
Currently, the university employs one part-time student mental health adviser as part of Student Based Services. The University will instead employ two full-time staff to extend the provision of this service.
The university was heavily criticised for the manner in which decisions to shut down Student Support Services were made. In addition to the nurse unit, the Student Learning Development Centre was also closed down.
When asked how LUSU will engage with university management in the future, Macmillan said: “We have meetings with the university. Whether we got listened to or not is entirely up to the university. I think it’s very apparent that any group that was consulted on the closure of nurse unit didn’t agree with the proposal.”