New Clause 27 - Duty as to workforce and training innovation

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 27 October 2021.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 5:15, 27 October 2021

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for clarification, but she illustrates that placements, both as students and in the context she describes, are vital to enable students to understand and learn the reality and skill of their profession. It is also important that placements are rewarding for students.

HEE has successfully worked with education providers and placement providers to ensure there is sufficient placement capacity for the record number of nursing students that we now have. Such work includes payment of the education and training tariff, which pays a contribution to the costs of providing placements. The Government have also supported HEE through the provision of additional funding, enabling it to launch its clinical placement expansion programme. The programme has seen HEE commit £15 million to fund additional clinical placements across nursing, midwifery, allied health professionals and healthcare science in 2021-22. This funding will increase the number of placements offered to nursing, midwifery and AHP healthcare students from September 2021, which was last month, and it will enable HEE to deliver the future health and care workforce in sufficient numbers, and with the skills that the NHS needs.

Before I turn to innovation, I will address two points that were made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood and alluded to by the hon. Member for Nottingham North. First, the shadow minister touched on those who come from abroad via normal immigration routes or as refugees, the skills they have and how we need to make it easier for such people to utilise their skills and work in our NHS. He is absolutely right, and we continue to look at how we can make the process easier. We need to balance that with making sure that we can evidence and reference those skills for the safety of patients and those qualifications, but where that can be done and where those skills are commensurate, we need to make it as easy as possible for them to requalify or go through the necessary safety processes to be able to work in our NHS. The only other thing I would say is that we have to be very careful that any recruitment is ethical and that we are not denuding countries of the ability to utilise the skills of clinical professionals in rebuilding their own countries.

The second point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood was about the challenges posed for maintaining quality, in terms of people going through relevant courses, and for the operation of the cap. I will not criticise any other Government Department, but he highlights the juxtaposition that often occurs between the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care, or between other Departments where two Departments have an interest in the same policy but different incentives for their policy making. There will always have to be a financial test. There is always a limited budget, and my right hon. Friend highlighted how expensive some of the training courses are. However, it is right to expand the number of medical schools and training places, as we have done—he probably presided over it.

I remember going to the University of Lincoln, when I had just been appointed. Those I met were disappointed that I was not my right hon. Friend, but they were none the less very welcoming to me. The University of Lincoln works very closely with the University of Nottingham, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Nottingham North, in setting up a new medical school and drawing on the curriculum and expertise that was already in Nottingham. It is a great example. I very much hope that, when I am not in this Bill Committee, I might be able to go once again to visit the University of Lincoln and perhaps come and see the hon. Gentleman’s local medical school over in Nottingham.

Finally, on innovation, HEE currently works with universities, training providers and regulators on the curricula for the healthcare professions to ensure that they reflect the latest technological innovations. Although curricula are set, as I have said, at institution level, HEE can influence the content by representing the employer voice, to ensure that the training that individuals receive is relevant to what employers need.

In relation to consultation, HEE already works with universities, placement providers and others on the availability of placement providers to assess and ensure that there are the right number and types of placement. As I have mentioned, the number of placements has expanded. That is a direct result of the constructive dialogue and engagement that HEE has with placement providers. At ICS level, national guidance on the ICS people function set out the expectations.

I hope that I have set out that work on the areas highlighted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood is being taken forward—some of it was started by him a few years ago—under the existing statutory duty under section 1F of the NHS Act 2006. Therefore, at this point, we do not think that further specific duties are necessary, but I suspect that, in the further passage of this legislation, we may well return to the sort of themes that we have discussed today.