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Letters to the editor

The Editor welcomes letters at 151 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4QX

fax: (0171) 505 6667 e-mail: nceedit@construct.emap.co.uk

and reserves the right to condense.

Licence to deter

I read the article 'EngC backs civils licensing scheme' (NCE 30 April) with horror. May I contribute the experience of my wife, a nurse, to this subject?

To retain their professional qualifications and thus their ability to retain employment, nurses are required to compile continuous professional development portfolios detailing training/study undertaken over a three year period. I believe that this process stated as a voluntary system which became compulsory. The Nursing Council may request to see this portfolio when nurses renew their registration every three years. If the nurse is unable to produce this documentation, the sanction is available to the Nursing Council of removing the nurse's professional qualification.

The above system is one of the reasons why there is a shortage of nurses in the country. I feel sure your readers would agree that nursing is a demanding enough profession without having to worry about unnecessary paperwork and other bureaucratic demands on time.

To an outsider, the requirements seem to be mainly for the benefit of course organisers and the self-importance of the governing bodies within nursing. In support of this statement, one only has to glance through various nursing magazines to be struck by the large number of nurses requesting information from fellow nurses on the most unusual subjects, as an aid to compiling their portfolios. The number of advertisements for (usually expensive) one or two day courses (again on the most unusual subjects) is remarkable. Finally, the articles written by 'senior nurses' praising the requirements have to be seen to be believed; one wonders when the author last nursed a patient.

I acknowledge that the EngC proposals are, currently, voluntary, However I feel that this may well be the start of a process which will ultimately become compulsory as in nursing, leading to a shortage of qualified engineers and incorporated engineers. Why should a young person enter a profession which he/she could well be thrown out of a few years after qualifying (itself a lengthy and arduous process)?

Other professions (eg doctors, lawyers, accountants etc) do not have this system, and I believe that civil engineering has no need for it either. Should this system be adopted. I look forward to reading articles in NCE on the critical shortage on civil engineers in the UK in the early years of the next century.

Andrew Sturrock (AM),

8 Maple Croft Road, Sheffield, S9 1DP.

Consulting Council

I am in receipt of a list of candidates for the election of new members of the Council for 1998 and note the present employment status of those proposed and those continuing for 1998-99.

It is glaringly obvious that there are no candidates representing manufacturing and only three of each representing contractor and private sector, with a massive 15 representing consultants as their present employment.

Is this a reflection of the pressure under which corporate members operate in manufacturing and contracting as opposed to those in consultancy? Maybe this is self-explanatory.

JE Riddle (M), contracts director, Topbond, Pepper Hill, Station Road, Southfleet, Kent, DA13 9PA.

Research framework

I regret to say that your article 'Funding blamed for technology shortfall' (NCE 23 April) draws a wrong and negative inference from the Robobuild report, just published. This headline rather unfairly criticises those responsible for allocating public sector construction research funding. They can only begin to consider allocating funding once evidence of sufficient quality is compiled and presented.

However, the Robobuild report has collected such evidence and, I believe makes a compelling case for 'coherent thinking' that encourages different public sector departments to develop a framework that ensures the most effective use of limited resources for this emerging area of innovation. Such synergy in action would typically facilitate cross-sectoral exchanging of information by creating new markets and leaner processes and convening 'technology showcases' to demonstrate the 'real' state of the art.

It is also not possible for practising engineers to continually be fully appraised of emerging technologies and so here I must also dilute the impact of your reporting, with remarks attributable to me also, that 'widespread ignorance' is stunting development. The Robobuild report could be viewed as a catalyst or basis for the development of a coherent strategy for UK research in automation and robotics. Its tone is constructive, positive and informative, with international context, and if any readers would like more information on the report I will be pleased to pass this on.

David Cobb (M), Walnut Tree Cottage, Toms Hills Close, Aldbury, Tring, Herts, HP23 5SL.

*The Robobuild report 'Basis for the development of a coherent strategy for UK research in automation and robotics in buildings and structures'. A report part- supported by the ICE's R&D Enabling Fund and BRE. Information on how to obtain copies of the report and on IAARC can be obtained from David Cobb, tel/fax +44 1442 851098, e-mail:davidcobb@ compuserve.com

SARTOR standards

I write to comment on Alastair McLellan's article on university entry standards (NCE19 March), and on Paul Wright's letter published on 2 April.

SARTOR 1997 was published after four years' debate within the engineering community. The consensus over the need to raise standards in engineering education, training and qualification was universal. University entry standards are a contribution to achieving this aim.

Higher standards will in due time have an effect on the distribution of qualified engineers in the three Engineering Council grades. The Institution of Civil Engineers recognises the opportunity within SARTOR 1997 to establish a new framework of qualifying paths which will encourage progression and underscore the importance of individual responsibility for lifelong learning and development. Students with good HNC achievement will still be able to gain entry to degree courses - and so will those with good advanced GNVQs.

We believe that SARTOR 1997 will stimulate the aspirations of school leavers, not constrain them.

Richard Larcombe (F), Director, Education, Training & Membership, One Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA.

Victims of vertigo

I understand that the Building Regulations Approved Document 'M' (access and facilities for disabled people) is in the process of being revised.

With this in mind, I implore the 'powers that be' and those on the consultative committees, not to continue to ignore a forgotten section of the population with a disability that is recognised by the Benefits Agency - those who suffer from vertigo.

Putting glass balustrades to the edges of vertical drops, glass sided lifts, and mirrored ceilings above escalators etc cause vertigo sufferers to abandon attempts at living a near normal life in office buildings, shops, and shopping malls. Their lives are restricted enough already without designers causing more mayhem.

Even the Disability Discrimination Act does not address the problem or offer them any hope - so let's change things for the better!

Martin F Winter (M), Mortimer Hill, The Street, Mortimer Common, Reading RG7 3PW.

Shock tactic

With reference to the advertisement in NCE 23 April page18, death should not be used to sell things.

Colin Carron (M), 57 Hillington Gardens, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 8QS.

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