Report (6th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 12:30 pm, 8th March 2012

My Lords, as noble Lords will know, we have had a number of earlier discussions about education and training and I welcome this new opportunity to return to the subject. As the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, is aware, we are putting in place what we see as a strong national system for education and training, with a strengthened focus on quality outcomes.

In the Bill we have introduced a clear duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that such a system is in place. We are now making good progress in establishing Health Education England and the local education and training boards. We are acutely aware of the importance of a safe transition to the new system. We are proceeding with care and at a sensible pace to ensure that the new system is fully up and running by April 2013.

We have also introduced amendments to strengthen links with the wider system. Our Amendments 61 and 104, which were accepted in an earlier debate, place duties on the board and on clinical commissioning groups to have regard to the need to promote education and training. They are designed to ensure that commissioners of NHS services consider the planning, commissioning and delivery of education and training when carrying out their functions.

We also accepted an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, to strengthen co-operation among providers of NHS-funded services, which would place a duty on commissioners to ensure that any person providing services as part of the health service would have to co-operate with the Secretary of State in the discharge of his education and training duty, or with any special health authority discharging that duty-that is, Health Education England. This aims to ensure that providers, too, play an active role in education and training.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, spoke with his customary authority on this subject and I agree with what he said. I particularly agree that employers best understand the workforce they employ and the kind of workforce they want to employ. They also understand the need to link service planning and workforce planning. They are able to focus on the whole workforce and to recognise the levels of contact with patients and service users, and the varying local needs. Evidence from other sectors and feedback from providers has been clear that in order to deliver successful and responsive world-class services, employers need to have clear ownership and involvement in the education and training and planning of their workforce. I am entirely at one with the noble Lord on that.

Employers have welcomed our plans for education and training. They believe that this approach should provide real opportunities so that healthcare providers have the right incentives to secure the skills that they wish to have, invest in training and innovate to improve the quality of services that they provide. They welcome the opportunity to have the incentives to align service, financial and workforce planning, and to have greater flexibility to respond to the strategic commissioning intentions of the NHS Commissioning Board and clinical commissioning groups.

The NHS Confederation, NHS Employers, Foundation Trust Network and the Association of UK University Hospitals all support a system that provides greater accountability for employers. Strategic health authorities are working with employers to support them in developing these local partnerships so that they can take full responsibility for workforce planning, education and training.

I hope that that is of reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg. What is happening on the ground almost pre-empts the speech he so articulately made. We are rapidly moving towards the kind of system to which he and other noble Lords aspire. Having secured the amendments that are already in the Bill, we do not believe that it is necessary to build in any more. On the strength of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord will feel comfortable in withdrawing his amendment.