COMMONS

NHS workforce plans are unclear and lack crucial detail

23 May 2012

Government plans to reform education, training and workforce planning in the NHS are unclear and lack crucial detail, says the Health Select Committee

Plans to reform handling of the £5billion annual training budget are welcome in principle, but without greater clarity and detail from the Government, coupled with a greater sense of urgency about their implementation, the success of new arrangements is at risk, say MPs.

Launching the Committee's Education, Training and Workforce Planning report, Health Committee Chair, Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, 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 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. The proposed tariff system for paying education and training providers will bring greater fairness, transparency and focus on quality. Moreover, placing a levy on all healthcare providers - including the private sector - to pay for training would also be much fairer and more open.

But a much greater sense of urgency is needed if service disruption is to be avoided and these good intentions realised."

The Committee also concludes that:

  • New arrangements for voluntary registration of healthcare assistants are to be welcomed, but in the long run should be replaced by compulsory regulation.
  • More must be done to reconcile reduced working hours for junior doctors with meeting their training needs.
  • The NHS needs to ensure that its training programme will allow it to meet its own staffing needs, although the system should continue to welcome staff who were trained overseas.
  • NHS workforce planning should aim to avoid over-reliance on locum and agency staff, although both will continue to provide necessary flexibility within the system.
  • More detail is needed about how postgraduate medical deaneries will fit into the new system.

Further Information

Image: iStockphoto

 

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