A MILESTONE for healthcare and education in Oxfordshire was marked this week with the official launch of the Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Staff at Oxford's two universities and two main NHS trusts gathered at the Oxford Brookes University Headington campus on Tuesday at the celebratory event.

The school will open its doors this September and aims to offer the best and brightest new students a solid education alongside clinical practice and research.

Speaking at the event Professor Alistair Fitt, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes, said: "We are looking forward to a bright future for education and healthcare.

"It will be very important in building on our successes and collaboration which already exist between Oxford Brookes and the local NHS."

The school aims to address issues of recruitment and retention in nursing by encouraging the best and brightest students to stay in Oxfordshire.

Up to 120 nurses and midwives currently graduate from Oxford Brookes every year and by the end of 2017/18 this is set to rise to 250.

Students will spend eight weeks at the Marston Road campus before taking up work at sites run by Oxford University Hospitals and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trusts in acute and community hospitals, midwife-led units (MLUs) and care settings, racking up about 2,300 hours of experience before they graduate.

Dr Astrid Schloerscheidt, the university's newly-appointed pro vice-chancellor and dean for the faculty of health and life sciences, also spoke at the launch.

She said: "I believe that it is through collaborative working and sharing our strengths and expertise that we will achieve our ambitions.

"It is so encouraging to hear of the passion and excitement there is for the Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery.

"I am sure we are all looking forward to it opening its doors from August."

Parts of the Brookes campus have been rebranded ahead of the launch to create a greater sense of cohesion.

When the school was first announced in March, Brookes stressed that the 'right attitude' was more important than high grades in prospective students.

This week the midwifery programme at Brookes was also called an 'outstanding programme of study' in an assessment of Unicef Baby Friendly standards.

A sample of students achieved 100 per cent on their knowledge of five themes, including helping new mothers to breastfeed, managing challenges and communication.

The report said: "The team continue to deliver an outstanding programme of study which is responsive to a changing environment and to new ideas; they should be commended for their commitment to sustaining the Unicef UK Baby Friendly standards at such a high level."