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Developing the Healthcare Workforce

On 10 January 2012, the Department of Health published Liberating the NHS: Developing the Healthcare Workforce.

The document sets out a new education and training system that builds on responses to the consultation and the advice of the Future Forum.

The paragraphs devoted to the Public Health workforce read as follows:

The Public Health Workforce

30.The Department of Health will be consulting on a public health workforce strategy. Whilst there will be a focus on public health consultants, the consultation will acknowledge that public health is everyone?s business and will include proposals for building capacity and embedding public health skills amongst practitioners, the wider workforces, such as housing officers, and within local communities. It will set out how the public health workforce can access high quality education and training to deliver positive outcomes across the three domains of public health ? health protection, health improvement and healthcare public health ? and at all levels of the new public health system.

31. Workforce planning, education and training for those professional and clinical workforces that will move from the NHS and form part of the new public health system will remain integrated within this new system, informed by the new employers and the public health professional workforce. This will ensure that, regardless of sector or employer, all public health workforces that are currently the responsibility of the NHS education and training system will have continuing oversight through HEE and delivery via LETBs.

32.The Department agrees that it is essential that all public health specialists are suitable for the role for which they are appointed. We are exploring options, including the option of compulsory statutory regulation, for assuring the quality of those appointed as public health specialists. Ministers recently asked for further evidence that might support a case for compulsory statutory regulation. We are currently considering this evidence and we will bring forward proposals very shortly.

The Executive Summary of the whole document reads as follows:

Executive summary

1. The shape and skills of the future health and public health workforce need to evolve constantly if we are to sustain high quality health services and continue to improve health in the face of demographic and technological change.

2. To keep up with these changes, the NHS and public health system is changing and therefore the way in which we educate and train our workforce must also change - the needs of patients and the public must be served by a workforce that has the skills and knowledge to provide safe, effective and compassionate care at all times.

3. Here we set out a new education and training system that will do just that, building on responses to our consultation and the advice of the Future Forum. It puts employers, and professionals in the driving seat and gives them the national support they need to identify and anticipate the key workforce challenges, and to be flexible and responsive in planning and developing their workforce. We believe these provider-led arrangements offer the best assurance for future-proofing the way we develop the health and public health workforce so we can meet the aspirations set out in the NHS Constitution - to bring the highest levels of human knowledge and skill to save lives and improve health.

4. There are two central planks to the new system - Health Education England (HEE) and the Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs).

5. HEE will provide national leadership and oversight on strategic planning and development of the health and public health workforce, and allocate education and training resources. HEE will promote high quality education and training that is responsive to the changing needs of patients and local communities - including responsibility for ensuring the effective delivery of important national functions, such as medical trainee recruitment. Once the new education and training system is fully established, HEE will be able to consider to what extent they can be devolved.

6. The LETBs will be the vehicle for providers and professionals to work with HEE to improve the quality of education and training outcomes so that they meet the needs of service providers, patients and the public. Through HEE, health and public health providers will have strong input into the development of national strategies and priorities so education and training can adapt quickly to new ways of working and new models of service. LETBs may also take on specific leadership roles for particular professional groups, such as the smaller professions and commissioning specialist skills.

7. The Department will set the education and training outcomes for the system as a whole, securing the resources necessary and continuing to set the regulatory, policy and legal framework. It will hold the HEE Board to account for delivery of its strategic objectives.

8. HEE?s role will be to ensure greater transparency in the education and training investments employers make in their workforce. LETBs will have flexibility to invest in education, training and ongoing professional development to support innovation and development of the wider health team. LETBs will also be able to ensure that funding in the new system follows the student/trainee on the basis of quality education and training outcomes. Proposals to raise the education and training budget through a levy on providers will be developed for consultation.

9. Local education providers, universities, colleges and employers, will remain directly responsible for the provision and quality control of education at a local level. This framework will be maintained in the new system, with the LETBs assuming responsibility for the quality management role at local level and for meeting standards required by national frameworks and the regulators.

10. The continuing success of the healthcare and public health systems is dependent on partnerships with higher and further education. Many educators, often working in close partnership with the health service, undertake excellent, cutting-edge research and innovation that underpins continuing improvements in health and public health in the UK and across the world. Therefore the mutual dependence between health, education and research means a strong working relationship is essential.

11. Education and training is an important factor in translating new developments and technologies into practice. LETBs will work closely with the new Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) to realise the ambition set out in Innovation, Health and Wealth for an NHS defined by its commitment to innovation and the rapid diffusion of transformative ideas and practice. They will together exploit the potential for high quality care and innovation through the integration of clinical, research and educational functions.

12. Given the importance of education and training and the competing pressures across the wider system, it is vital that we ensure a safe and stable transition and a pace of change that is led by local priorities and capacity. We are taking a deliberate and cautious approach so that we can secure continuity and a safe transfer of essential skills and staff from Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) and protect individuals currently undertaking training. HEE will be established as a Special Health Authority in June 2012, with a view to commencing operations from October 2012, taking on full functionality when the SHAs close in April 2013.

13. In due course, we plan to consolidate HEE by establishing it in primary legislation as a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB). This will enable HEE to operate on a permanent statutory basis at arms-length from the Department of Health, whilst remaining accountable to the Secretary of State. We intend to publish draft clauses for pre-legislative scrutiny in the second Parliamentary session. We then intend to legislate to establish the NDPB as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

14. The outcome of these changes will be a better education, training and workforce planning system for health and public health, one that is clearly focused on continually improving the health of the public and services for patients.

To download the complete document, visit the Department of Health website.

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