GP practices England General practitioner Practice manager

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Apprenticeships in England

GP surgery, Derry, Northern Ireland
18 October 2016

In April 2017, the Government introduced an apprenticeship levy on all employers in England to encourage the employment of apprentices. The money gathered by the levy can be accessed by employers, including NHS Trusts and GP Practices in England, to help assist with the employment of apprentices by covering training and assessment costs. While only larger employers (those with a pay bill over 3 million) will be required to pay the levy, all employers, regardless of size, will be able to benefit from the fund.

Apprenticeship policy is devolved, so each nation manages their own apprenticeship programme. This guidance looks at what funding is currently available for employers in England only and explains how the apprenticeship levy works.


What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job where individuals can gain a qualification and earn at the same time. The opportunities are useful for those who wish to acquire a qualification in a particular area while learning on the job. They are open to new and existing staff and anyone aged 16 and over. At a minimum, the apprenticeship must last for a year but depending on the level of qualification they can last up to 5 years. One of the first steps when recruiting an apprentice is to decide on an apprenticeship ‘framework’ or ‘standard’. Frameworks and standards set out the details of the role of the apprentice, including the levels of difficulty of the course and the role. There are different types of apprenticeships depending on the sector.

See apprenticeship standards/frameworks and training providers

Health Education England is involved in the development of the healthcare specific apprenticeships including some in business and administration. So far, HEE and Skills for Care have been working to develop approved apprenticeship standards for healthcare support workers and assistant practitioners and plan to develop assessment and implementation plans of these standards. HEE have additional plans to bring together more employers to develop apprenticeship standards in more healthcare professions including practice managers and allied health professionals.

Read further information and reviews

HEE plan to undertake a full review at the end of 2018 into the NHS’s first year of accessing the apprenticeship levy and make recommendations as how to improve the system for the future.


How the apprenticeship levy works

Employers who have a pay bill of over £3 million are required to pay into the levy to fund apprenticeship training and assessment costs. The calculation involves each employer’s contribution of 0.5% being offset by £15,000 pounds, which means the employers are only required to contribute 0.5% once their pay bill exceeds £3 million. The NHS will make an annual payment to the apprenticeship levy of around £200m and to recoup this the NHS will need to employ around 27,500 apprentices every year.

Working examples

Example 1. Employer paying the levy

Annual pay bill of 5 million: 0.5% X £5,000,000 = 25,000 – 15,000 = £10,000

Example 2. Employer who would not have to pay the levy

Annual pay bill of 2 million: 0.5 X £2,000,000 = £10,000 - £15,000 = £0

How to pay the levy


Co-investment for GP practices/smaller employers

Employers that are not required to pay into the levy are not excluded from the benefits. Non-levy paying employers that employ an apprentice will be required to pay a small amount (10%) towards the cost of training and assessing their apprentices (co-investment), with the remaining money coming from the levy fund up to the funding band maximum. The funding band maximum represents the maximum amount of funding that can be accessed. Employers are expected to negotiate with providers on the price of training and assessment costs and where costs exceed the funding band maximum, the employer will be expected to pay the difference.


Useful resources

HEE has developed a booklet showcasing the benefits of apprenticeship qualifications in primary care support roles. The qualifications include medical administration, business administration, customer service and healthcare and team leading. The booklet titled ‘apprenticeships in primary care’ also includes a step by step guide on how to employ an apprentice including case studies from apprentices and their experiences of working in primary care.

For more general information on apprentices including toolkits, case studies and information on how to employ apprentices in your trust/practice visit HEE’s website.