New Clause 27 - Duty as to workforce and training innovation

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 27 October 2021.

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Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood 5:00, 27 October 2021

Thank you for allowing me to speak to these two new clauses together, Mr McCabe. They are essentially interrelated and were the product of a roundtable that I put together and hosted with Universities UK and the deans of medical colleges in my role as co-chair of the all-party university group. These were the two asks that the universities and medical colleges had for the Bill. I offer these new clauses as part of that consultative approach, so I will not be pushing them to a vote.

Basically, we are at a crux. I raised this question on clause 33 of the Bill, but when it comes to workforce planning and training, we take a siloed approach, focusing on what the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Health Education England set out as their vision, and the funding flows from that. Not included in that vision, although clearly there are consultative opportunities, is a recognised role and responsibility in legislation for healthcare education providers, the universities and the deans of the colleges in providing the clinicians, doctors and nurses of tomorrow. Nor is there recognition that the workforce is changing. While we have the Government’s commitment to the retention of nurses and doctors, that retention can take place only if there is continuous professional development.

When I was a Health Minister, I was very concerned to ensure an uplift in the budget of Health Education England to 3.4% to match that of NHS England. It had always been thought of as the poorer relation; the money would always flow later, and it took a great deal of lobbying from the relevant organisations to make the point that we needed to put that workforce training money aside, particularly for continuous professional development.

New clause 27, in summary, reflects the fact that if we are to have an integrated care system, and if the new White Paper is to look at how to integrate social care with healthcare, we will need to provide huge retraining opportunities for both NHS and social care staff to enable them to work across whatever that new landscape may be. I do not think it is practical to send everyone back to university, or even always to have physical in-work training opportunities, important though those may be. We will clearly need to have digital opportunities, online courses and a whole technological revolution in how we deliver those retraining opportunities.

Those opportunities are out there. If we look at the universities and the role of EdTech, it is important that the health service grips that opportunity with both hands while it has the chance to do so, because it will be coming down the tracks. If we want to implement reform via the integration of services, it will only be as good as the people working in those services, as we all know, and those people will be as good as they can be only if they are given the appropriate opportunities to train and retrain during their career.

The need for new clause 28 has become more pressing as a result of recent developments. It sets out a duty for education placement capacity; I will not go into the detail of the new clause, but effectively it is about place planning and ensuring that the universities and royal colleges are involved with that at the very outset. In the debate on clause 33, I talked about the paradox of our having a cap on places, which is causing a bottleneck in post-18 education—those pupils who are desperate to become doctors or nurses, but who find a cap on their aspiration.

That cap is there, as we know, because medical places are expensive; they cost not £9,250 a year, but more like £70,000 over the course of a medical student’s training lifetime. At the same time, however, we have a cap on places for those 18-year-olds entering the system and then—surprise, surprise—we find we do not have enough doctors and nurses in the system, and we have to start retraining from abroad.