NHS education reforms 'lack detail'
Wednesday 23 May 2012
The Government's plans to reform education and training in the NHS are unclear and lack detail, MPs have warned.
The health select committee said the success of Health Education England (HEE), which will oversee the training across services in England, is at risk because ministers have been "slow" in developing a plan for how the new organisation will operate.
The HEE will become fully operational in April next year and will distribute the £5 billion annual training budget to Local Education and Training Boards.
The select committee's Education, Training and Workforce Planning report claimed that the Government must provide more detail on how the organisation will operate.
The report states: "We welcome the plan to set up HEE as an executive body with overall responsibility for education, training and workforce planning across the whole workforce.
"However, we are concerned that the Government has been slow in developing a coherent plan for the new organisation.
"Greater clarity is particularly needed about how HEE plans to ensure that it develops a dynamic view of the changing education requirements of the whole health and care sector.
"We also welcome the Government's plan to create Local Education and Training Boards as provider-led bodies to take responsibility for education, training and workforce planning below the national level.
"We are concerned, however, at the Government's protracted failure to produce concrete plans in respect of the boards, which poses a significant risk to their successful establishment.
"It is unsatisfactory that so much about the boards still remains vague and indeterminate."
Tory former health secretary Stephen Dorrell, who chairs the select committee, raised concerns about an "apparent lack of urgency" in the organisation of the bodies.
He said: "Current education and training arrangements are complex, inflexible and unfair.
"This complexity makes it more difficult to change the way care is delivered and respond to the needs of patients; the NHS needs much more effective arrangements for planning and training its future workforce.
"For those reasons, we welcome the plan to create Health Education England, alongside Local Education and Training Boards and we welcome the remit given to the Centre for Workforce Intelligence.
"But the Government urgently needs to provide more clear and detailed information about how these bodies will operate and work together in the new system.
"They are supposed to be responsible for a £5 billion training budget from next April, but Government has not yet published a detailed plan of how the new structures are intended to work.
"We are concerned about this apparent lack of urgency and we believe that failure to address these issues quickly will lead to risk for patients and confusion for staff.
"We agree with the Government that the current system does not work well and we welcome the intention to address these failings.
"But a much greater sense of urgency is needed if service disruption is to be avoided and these good intentions realised."
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: "This report by an esteemed group of MPs echoes many of the concerns raised by the RCN about the future of the NHS workforce.
"We have been saying for some time that the Government needs to be clearer about how it intends to deliver the right level of training and education to ensure we have a workforce that is able to meet the changing health needs of the population.
"We have serious concerns that medical education is likely to dominate Health Education England.
"It is therefore essential that as the largest workforce group in the NHS, the role of nursing is given due consideration as the Government bottoms out the detail of these plans."
Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "This report welcomes our plans to change the current education and training system to make it clearer, fairer and with a greater focus on quality.
"It is good to see that the Health Select Committee recognises the need for change.
"We are now moving ahead to reform the education and training system - the chair of HEE has been appointed, Local education and training boards are developing rapidly and we will be setting out details of their remit and how they will operate.
"We know that this detail will make sure that our plans deliver the change we want to see."
Professor Sir Peter Rubin, chairman of the General Medical Council, said: "We welcome the report's recognition that there must be clarity on how professional regulators, Health Education England and Local Education and Training Boards will work together.
"Ensuring students and junior doctors are getting high quality education and training is an important part of our statutory role in protecting patients and promoting proper standards of care.
"We are talking to the Department of Health and other professional regulators about how we will work in partnership with HEE and the new LETBs, including how any concerns about medical education will be shared with us."
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