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Liberating the NHS: developing the healthcare workforce - DOH consultation - closes 31st March 2011

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kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

An ambitious new strategy to simplify the healthcare education and training system, underpinned by strong clinical leadership, was unveiled today by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

The consultation Liberating the NHS: Developing the Healthcare Workforce sets out proposals for a new workforce, education and training structure driven by patient need and led by local healthcare providers.

It is intended that the new system will fit with the White Paper reforms so that employers have greater autonomy and accountability for planning and developing the workforce, alongside greater professional ownership of the quality of education and training.

The proposals will allow for:

  • Robust workforce planning to ensure sufficient numbers of appropriately skilled healthcare staff in the right areas;
  • A flexible workforce that can respond to the needs of local demand;
  • Continuous improvement in the quality of education & training of staff aspiring for excellence and innovation for high quality care;
  • Transparency across provider funding to ensure value for money and demonstrate the quality of education and training; and
  • A diverse workforce that has access to fair education and training as well as opportunities to progress.

Local healthcare provider-led ‘skills networks’ will ensure effective planning and development of the local workforce by working in partnership with education providers, social care providers, Local Authorities and the new Health and Well Being Boards.

A new national body - Health Education England - will also be set up as a statutory board to provide national oversight and support to Public Health England and healthcare providers on workforce planning and the commissioning of education and training.

Health Education England will be a lean and expert organisation that will provide leadership and assurance for issues that cannot be delivered by local provider ‘skills networks’.

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley said:

“The way we plan and develop the healthcare workforce will support our White Paper reforms so that it is aligned with GP consortia to commission and provide safe, high quality care.

“It is central to our vision that the healthcare professions provide leadership in ensuring the quality of education and training - so that locally and nationally we can all be confident about the standards being achieved.

“We want to empower healthcare providers to plan and develop their own workforce. They know what services their patients and local communities require – and they know what staff they need to deliver excellent, responsive healthcare.

“It is important that we take into account a wide range of views before we implement any changes. The consultation closes at the end of March 2011 so please get involved.”

Director General of Workforce, Clare Chapman said:

“Greater local freedom for the delivery of healthcare demands new responsibilities for developing the current and future healthcare workforce. This consultation lays out proposals on how this can be achieved and there will be many who will want to make their voices heard and shape the way forward.

“Providers, professions and educators will not shrink from these new responsibilities but will welcome them. We have a long tradition of excellence in the education of healthcare professionals in this country and it is crucial that new arrangements continue this, recognising that a well-trained and flexible workforce is key to delivering the responsive services that our communities want.”


Notes to editors

1. For more information, please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.

2. The consultation Liberating the NHS: Developing the Healthcare Workforce can be found at

Responses can be completed online at

3. Supportive quotes

Professor Sir John Tooke –Vice Provost (Health) at UCL (University College London) and is Head of the UCL School of Life & Medical Sciences and Head of the UCL Medical School. Author of Aspiring for excellence.

“Having long argued for healthcare professional education programmes that are future focused, responsive to service and patient need, and engage health professionals and higher education in their development, I welcome many of the principles at the core of this consultation. Responses to the consultation will be critical in translating these proposals into a workforce development system that is both fit for contemporary purpose and aspires to excellence.”

Professor Sir Neil Douglas – Chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges

"Sir Neil Douglas welcomes the emphasis on the importance of excellent training to ensure high quality patient care in the future and the proposals to embed the professions and the Colleges in the design of and delivery training. The duty of local healthcare providers to cooperate in workforce planning and training is also welcomed'

Professor Dame Carol Black - National Director for Health and Work, and Chair of the Nuffield Trust

"This consultation offers an excellent opportunity to establish agreed principles and objectives that should determine the future provision of lifelong health professional education and training for the NHS, and ensure the right differentiation and development of skills and responsibilities necessary for safe, high quality, multidisciplinary working in our evolving healthcare system".

Sir Christopher Edwards Chair of MEE

"This is a major opportunity to improve the quality of postgraduate health education and training in England, to relate this to better informed workforce planning and to put its funding on a more transparent and fairer base"

Miles Scott – Vice Chair of the Foundation Trust Network Board and Chief Executive of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

"Foundation Trusts welcome the lead role for employers in commissioning education and training proposed in this consultation. Healthcare education and training will benefit from greater local accountability, decision making and clinical engagement to meet both immediate needs and longer-term workforce requirements."

Dean Royles, Director of NHS Employers, said: “We welcome the opportunity for consultation and recognise the need for education training and commissioning to change to meet the needs of the service in the future.

“We are pleased that government’s current reforms promise to put employers front and centre of the new arrangements for workforce planning, education and training and outline the important role of NHS Employers in this. This firmly supports our view that employers must have a strong voice in driving decisions to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best staff and continue to provide the highest level of patient care.

“The NHS spends £5 billion a year on education, training and commissioning and employers are best placed to use the potential that this funding offers to ensure it is used most effectively.

“This consultation presents an opportunity for employers to express their views and build on the work that NHS Employers has previously done. We have been instrumental in shaping thinking in the pre-consultation phase and we will continue to work closely with employers across the NHS to ensure that their views remain central to decisions, throughout the consultation and into implementation.”

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kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

Government hasn't recognised fully the cultural change needed to realise its NHS Information Revolution, writes Intellect's Jon Lindberg. Here he details just what is needed to deliver 'ambitious but necessary' government plans

Andrew Lansley's plans to 'liberate' the NHS have been met with both praise and criticism, but whatever your views on the radical reforms proposed by the Health Secretary, the idea of the balance of power shifting decisively towards the patient is intriguing. Our society has rapidly changed over the last decade or so to become one in which we are used to having interactive, on-the-go access to information to support informed decision-making. Bringing the NHS up-to-date with these changes has been at the heart of a recent consultation on plans for an Information Revolution.

The Information Revolution vision is an ambitious but necessary reform agenda that seeks to empower patients and users by giving them the potential to be more involved in their care by making accurate and timely information readily available. However, in Intellect's response to the consultation we argue that the existing plans for an Information Revolution do not adequately recognise the extent of the cultural change that will be required if patients are to become active "information consumers", confidently handling their own medical records and choosing between providers and services. On the other hand, enabling information sharing and access across the wider NHS and integrating health and social care will allow clinicians and providers to be better equipped to accurately and timely commission and provide services to patients and users.

Both patients and clinicians will need unparalleled and previously unachieved levels of access to information to inform their decisions and choices. The NHS will need to accustom itself to dealing with patients who demand and have accessed information products that are relevant to their respective priorities and concerns. There are substantial socio-cultural as well as technical adjustments required. Patients will need education and support to make best use of the information that is available. Clinicians will need tools, training and professional support enabled by ICT solutions that allow real time input of information as well as sharing information when needed.

The implementation of an Information Revolution must therefore include a strategy for driving the integration of health and care services within and beyond the NHS. From an ICT point of view, solutions to support clinical decision-making and information sharing can help bridge some of the gaps and allow clinicians to intervene earlier in the patient pathway and help prevent people visiting hospitals in the first place. But the industry will also need to ensure solutions bridge the NHS, local authorities, third sector and private health sectors to promote integration. Fundamentally, however, the drive for integration needs to be supported and led by front line staff who can enjoy the benefits and share the rewards of joined-up services.

While NHS funding was relatively protected in October's Comprehensive Spending Review it faces unprecedented financial pressures with soaring demand and rising costs. These pressures will undoubtedly add to the challenges facing an Information Revolution. With £20bn of efficiency savings being sought by 2015, it's no surprise that Trust boards are putting efficiency savings at the top of their agendas. Unfortunately, these boards have on the whole not fully understood the gains that can be achieved by appropriate deployment of ICT throughout their organisations. But there are those who have and promoting successful stories and sharing lessons learned will become ever more important. The future of technology in healthcare should be a productivity-improving and cost-reducing agent, pulled through by solid business cases and justified by the needs of patients, clinicians and other professionals. That's the message Trust boards should take onboard.

Overall the government's plans for an Information Revolution represent an exciting opportunity to show how the NHS and industry can drive a step-change in health and social care that will be centred on patients and clinicians through better use of information and technology.<