Committee (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 14th November 2011.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 5:00 pm, 14th November 2011

My Lords, the Government are clear that the education, training and continuing development of the healthcare workforce are fundamental in supporting the delivery of excellent healthcare services across the NHS. I am very pleased that so many noble Lords here today share that view. It is certainly the Government's view. I very much welcome what have been excellent comments on this subject.

Amendment 47A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, seeks to insert a new clause placing a duty on the Secretary of State to establish a body called Health Education England. Similarly, Amendment 47B, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, seeks to place a duty on the Secretary of State to "provide or secure" an education and training system and to establish Health Education England to take responsibility for these education and training functions. Amendment 47B also specifies that the budget for education and training should be calculated on the basis of total health service expenditure and,

"should be no less than the level of expenditure on education and training at the time of Royal Assent".

The Government recognise the importance of having an effective education and training system for the healthcare workforce. The NHS invests approximately £4.9 billion centrally in the education and training of health professionals. It is vital that there is a robust system in place to manage this investment wisely, with clear lines of accountability to Parliament. I would point out to the most reverend Primate that that is exactly why we tabled Amendment 43 which, as the Committee will recall, we debated in our first session. The Committee has already approved that amendment, which is now in the Bill and which says that there is a duty on the Secretary of State to exercise his,

"functions ... so as to secure ... an effective", education and training system. It is perhaps worth my flagging up that that amendment has received a positive response from the British Medical Association, which, in the current circumstances, is a rather remarkable fact. I reiterate that it is designed to ensure that the healthcare workforce has the right skills, behaviours and training to deliver a world-class health service. But we want to put flesh on the bones here. We recognise the need to do that and I therefore undertake that we will publish detailed proposals for the education and training system ahead of the Bill's Report stage where we will describe how this duty will be enacted in practice. However, there are parts of our plans that I can set out now.

It is vital that we ensure a carefully managed transition into the new system and protect staff and students currently undertaking training. We are taking a number of actions in developing the new system to achieve this that I would like to highlight. The Future Forum recommended that the establishment of Health Education England should be expedited to provide leadership and stability in the system. We agree and it is heartening to see that many noble Lords support this course of action. We have appointed a senior responsible officer to drive this forward and inject pace into the design and development of Health Education England.

To respond to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, while I do not share in any way his analysis of the future prospects of the next health Bill, he was right on one matter: we plan to establish Health Education England as a Special Health Authority in 2012. This will enable it to take on some of its functions from October 2012 and be ready to be fully operational from April 2013. There is not and there will not be the chasm that the noble Lord referred to. Noble Lords will have a chance to scrutinise the establishment order and regulations to set up Health Education England as a Special Health Authority when they are laid before Parliament in early summer 2012. Lest there is any doubt on the matter, I reassure the Committee that it is our intention that Health Education England should form excellent partnerships with a full range of bodies involved in the planning, commissioning, provision and quality assurance of education and training.

However, I can say in particular to the noble Lords, Lord Warner and Lord Kakkar, that Health Education England will provide national leadership for education and training, overseeing workforce planning and the commissioning and delivery of education and training across the system. We have been clear about its accountability to the Secretary of State to ensure that, at national level, there are sufficient health professionals with the right skills, education and training to meet future healthcare needs. Providers of NHS services will be expected to meet the obligations set out in the NHS constitution, including the right of recipients of NHS healthcare to be treated with a professional standard of care by appropriately qualified and experience staff. Health Education England will hold responsibility for the management of the NHS multi-professional education and training budget, or MPET. To ensure that this budget is sufficient to support the development of the future NHS workforce, equipped with the right skills, our intention is to base the size of this budget on the needs of the service, supported by robust analysis of local workforce and education and training plans.

The question of postgraduate deaneries was raised in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg. The SHAs will continue to be accountable for postgraduate deaneries until 31 March 2013. Securing continuity for the work of the deaneries will be a key part of a safe transition. It is expected that deans and many of their staff will continue to take forward the work of deaneries with an emphasis on a new, multi-professional approach in the new system architecture.

To pick up one point made by the noble Lords, Lord Kakkar and Lord Turnberg, we also want to see stronger partnership working between postgraduate deaneries and universities. Further work is under way on the detail of these arrangements, with the right accountabilities for the quality of education and training lying with Health Education England and the professional regulators.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, about ring-fenced funding. As he knows, the MPET budget currently funds the education and training of the healthcare workforce and it is the responsibility of SHAs to invest the budget appropriately. We have proposed transparent systems to ensure that organisations receiving MPET funding under the future arrangements are held to account for using it for the education and training of the workforce.

The noble Lord also asked whether there will be a requirement to engage fully with academics. I partly covered that point but I emphasise that the new system presents a golden opportunity to build stronger links between the NHS and the academic health sector and to strengthen the educational foundation for research and innovation. Health Education England will ensure that research capability and capacity is maintained and it will forge strong partnerships with academia. Health Education England will work with the royal colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences, regulators, universities and service providers to ensure that the needs of healthcare delivery are reflected in developing curricula in the context of the statutory responsibility of regulators.

The noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, asked me about standards. I reassure him that standard-setting will be the role of Health Education England at a national level, and this is in addition to the important role that the professional regulators play in this area.

However, despite the progress that we have made, a lot more work has to be done to get these important arrangements right. In my view, that is why it is important that we do not try to amend the Bill in a way that later turns out not to be appropriate. The Future Forum is now leading a second phase of engagement on education and training, focusing particularly on the need for greater flexibility in training, variation in standards and quality, and the need for stronger partnership working between education, academia and service providers. I take this opportunity to mention that tomorrow I am hosting a seminar with Professor Steve Field, chair of the forum, and I welcome your Lordships' involvement.

I appreciate that the service is waiting for detailed plans for the education and training system to be finalised and published, and I have two promises that I can make on this. The first is the one to which I have already alluded. Once the Future Forum has concluded its work, and prior to Report, the Government will publish more detail on the changes to the workforce planning, education and training system. That, incidentally, will include more detail on postgraduate deaneries. Secondly, it is likely that primary legislation will be required to support the continuing development of the education and training system, including establishing Health Education England as a non-departmental public body, but we think it is important to spend time to make sure that these arrangements are correct rather than legislate at this stage. However, I can tell the Committee that we intend to publish draft clauses on education and training for pre-legislative scrutiny in the second Session in the same way as on research. This approach will enable us to ensure that the legislation is fit for purpose and that it allows additional opportunities for parliamentary scrutiny of the legislation. I hope that this undertaking will be welcome to noble Lords and will indicate the Government's strong desire to provide maximum clarity on these matters at an early stage. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will feel able not to press those particular amendments.

The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, have tabled remarkably similar amendments-Amendments 133 and 199A respectively-also on the subject of education and training. The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, wishes to impose a duty on the NHS Commissioning Board to,

"promote education and training of the health care workforce".

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, wishes to introduce a similar duty on clinical commissioning groups. As I have indicated, the Government's intention is to delegate responsibility for education and training to healthcare providers. They are at the front line of service delivery and are best placed to understand how the workforce needs to develop and respond to the needs of patients.

Responsibility for education and training is of great importance to employers and the various professional bodies that the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, mentions in his amendment, but commissioners will also have a role. I agree entirely that education and training needs to be effectively linked with the wider system. I am aware of concerns voiced by the royal colleges and professional bodies on precisely that matter. I wish to reassure the Committee that I recognise the vital interrelationship between education and training, and commissioning decisions. That is exactly why national and local education and training plans will need to respond to the strategic commissioning intentions set out by the board and clinical commissioning groups.

Similarly, in commissioning decisions there will be a need to consider the implications for education and training-it works both ways. The NHS Commissioning Board has to work closely with Health Education England and it will be a mutually supportive relationship. Indeed, this will be a prime example of the co-operation duties that will apply to the board and to other NHS bodies. Commissioners must also promote and have regard to the NHS constitution, which of course contains the pledges that I have already referred to.

I do not intend to speak for very much longer but there are a couple of points that I ought to cover. A number of noble Lords pointed to the lack of medical school involvement in the set-up of local arrangements. I need to be clear about this: the new arrangements are underpinned by the desire to strengthen both the provider voice at the local level and the role of professionals and education providers. We envisage that one of the functions of local bodies will be to ensure strong partnerships with universities and medical schools. Providers of services will have to work in partnership; they cannot just sit alone and ignore everybody else. The form of the local provider-led arrangements is still being developed. More details will be available prior to Report, but I have stressed the links that we envisage with academic colleges at a local level.

I hope that I have indicated that, contrary to the statement from the noble Lord, Lord Warner, that within the modernisation agenda we somehow forgot about education and training, this is not at all the case. As I mentioned when we debated this before, this has been an active programme of work ever since the general election. It is a complex issue and we want to get it right. My noble friends Lord Ribeiro and Lord Mawhinney were spot on in their judgment on this. We are taking action now. We are not losing time over this.

To sum up, we have made provision for education and training in the Bill. We will publish our detailed proposals before Report and we will publish draft clauses on education and training for pre-legislative scrutiny in the second Session. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.