Moves to make HEE (Health Education England) accountable to central NHS leaders are a ‘further undermining’ of the education and training body’s role and could risk money for education and training being diverted to meet service delivery costs, doctors leaders have warned.
It has been announced that NHS Improvement will now ‘jointly’ develop HEE’s mandate for 2019-20 and also take over the running of its leadership academy.
It comes amid major changes in the NHS, with the Government’s new funding settlement kick-starting a reorganisation of NHS leadership and a renewed drive towards place-based models of integrated care and potential for legislative change.
NHS leaders have said they welcome the increased collaboration and ‘closer alignment’ but BMA representative body chair Anthea Mowat and BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya have raised concerns that the changes could have a negative effect on junior doctor training and the wider workforce.
Dr Mowat said: ‘On the back of significant funding cuts to HEE’s budget announced last year, and without proper consideration of how this change will positively impact the education and training of doctors and the wider workforce, this move can only be seen as a further devaluing of HEE’s role by government.
‘Of particular concern is the requirement for HEE’s mandate to be approved by NHS Improvement’s Board – we will be carefully monitoring this development to ensure that future mandates rightly focus on ways to develop the healthcare workforce through education and training, rather than simply addressing and reacting to day-to-day system challenges to the detriment of training.’
Dr Wijesuriya said: ‘Although more work is needed this new organisational alignment must not be allowed to impede the progress being made through HEE’s work with the medical profession to improve the working lives of junior doctors, nor remove the welcomed recent focus on supporting the development of staff, associate specialists and specialty doctors.
'The formal alignment must also preserve the local support available to doctors via the postgraduate deans and their teams.’
Dr Wijesuriya added that the Department of Health and Social Care, led by health secretary Matt Hancock, must set out a ‘clear and credible’ justification for the moves – and provide an assurance that education and training funding would be ringfenced and not raided for everyday health-service costs.
HEE chief executive Ian Cumming said: ‘As set out in the draft workforce strategy HEE has always said closer alignment between service, financial and workforce planning is essential and I therefore welcome greater collaboration between the bodies responsible for these areas.’
NHS Improvement chief executive Ian Dalton added: ‘A strong workforce is critical to the future of the NHS.
'By integrating the work of HEE with NHS Improvement, we will develop a more coherent approach to workforce development across the NHS.’
Read more from Peter Blackburn and follow on Twitter.