New training boards could be same size as deaneries, says health department

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  24 Nov 2011


Local education and training boards, the organisations set to take over responsibility for medical education and training from deaneries, could be the same size as existing deaneries or strategic health authorities, the Department of Health has admitted.

England could have between 10 and 15 boards rather than one training board for every NHS acute trust, Jamie Rentoul, director of workforce development at the health department, told the House of Commons health select committee. Currently there are 10 strategic health authorities in England and 12 deaneries.

Deanery functions will continue beyond the transition to the new boards, “with, probably, many of the same staff,” and will expand their role to become multiprofessional, added Patricia Hamilton, director of medical education at the health department.

However, the number of boards is still under discussion and will be confirmed by the health secretary in due course, said Mr Rentoul. “The size and shape of them are still to be determined,” he told the committee. “The discussion going on at the moment is that they are of sufficient size to be able to take a broad view of the workforce in an area and have economies of scale—but also to have the clout to take action where there are concerns about quality.”

The Health Committee is holding an inquiry into the government’s plans for healthcare education, training, and workforce planning, which will look at how the proposals outlined in the workforce white paper, Liberating the NHS: Developing the Healthcare Workforce, and those suggested by the Future Forum will ensure the right numbers of appropriately trained healthcare staff and that standards of education and training are high and consistent.

The committee will look at, among other things, plans for the transition to the new system up to April 2013, the role and structure of Health Education England and local education and training boards, and how funding will be protected and distributed in the new system.

In its first oral evidence session last week the committee heard from lead figures at the Department of Health, Health Education England, and Medical Education England on the role of employers in managing workforce planning and training in the new system.

“The critical change in this is the stronger accountability and responsibility for employers within a national framework and with national leadership,” Mr Rentoul told the committee. “Getting this right, going forward, is about employers being able to set out, much more clearly, the future service need and how the workforce goes with that—the integration of service, financial, and workforce planning, at a local level, driving the system more, within a system of checks and balances and with national leadership.”

Royal colleges, deaneries, and local education providers such as universities will also have a seat on the local education and training boards and will have a key role in ensuring the quality of training provided by employers.

Health Education England, the new body that will oversee and allocate funding for healthcare training in England, will hold the local boards to account to ensure that the right decisions are being made locally for workforce numbers and quality of training.

“Some of this is about recognising that good education and training cannot be left to an individual provider, small or large, but is a collaborative effort in terms of the right rotations, the right support, and so on,” said Mr Rentoul. “Therefore, these local education and training boards are about employers coming together, working with postgraduate deaneries and increasingly across professional groups, to say, ‘What are the quality standards we are going to make clear everyone has?’

“They will be held to account by Health Education England with better information, transparency, and focus over time.”

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

 hjaques@bmj.com

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