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Health Education England to merge with NHS England

Health Education England will be absorbed into NHS England by April 2023. The decision, which is expected in the coming days, is the culmination of a long-running budget struggle between HEE and the Treasury.

A number of senior sources have indicated that the financing deal HEE was advocating for was deemed as unaffordable, effectively putting the independent education organisation out of business.

When it released its three-year expenditure forecasts last month, the Treasury failed to guarantee the NHS' education and training funds, with any continuous budget for HEE also left out.

The HEE's budget for 2020-21 was £3.96 billion. HEE was reportedly lobbying for a big increase; senior HEE figures were reportedly disappointed by the decision, saying that the organisation could have been grown further as an autonomous body.

Sajid Javid, speaking at the NHS Providers conference today, emphasised the significance of additional staff training. He was "thinking about how we can go even further [than that initiative] and discussing that with HEE," he said, referring to work on a "long-term strategic framework" for health and care workforce planning. The proposal is now scheduled to be released in the "spring."

According to the HSJ, the HEE board wrote to Mr. Javid during the expenditure review, emphasising that the inability to approve an adequate budget would jeopardise the government's plans to expand personnel and achieve NHS covid recovery goals.

Following the news, many have expressed concerns around their independence and the funding for future training development, and whether this would impact the government's recruitment targets, while others have pointed out there would be a risk that NHSE will not be focusing on the whole systems needs.

NHSE medical director Steve Powis had cautioned a week before the funding review that it was "extremely important" that HEE receive a settlement that would allow it to boost staff supply.

"While this step makes sense, it will not solve the NHS's staffing problems on its own." The workforce problem has created a blind spot for the government, which has made promises, pledges, and manifesto commitments but has failed to fund the properly funded workforce strategy required to navigate the staffing crisis. This needs to change, and accepting an amendment to the Health and Care Bill that would require the frequent release of workforce predictions and allow for a longer-term approach to workforce planning would be a step in the right direction."

In response to this news, the Chief Executive of the King's Fund Richard Murray expressed concern that, while this merger may benefit workforce planning for the future, it will only do so by utilising HEE's experience and skillsets;

"Folding Health Education England into NHS England will make responsibilities for workforce planning much clearer and should make it easier to develop the workforce strategy needed to meet current and future demand for services. But this change will only work if NHS England gives workforce planning the priority it has lacked over for so long and makes full use of the skills Health Education England staff will bring with them.

"While there is logic to it, this move alone will not address staff shortages in the NHS. The workforce crisis has become a blind spot for the government which has made promises, pledges, and manifesto commitments, but failed to back the fully funded workforce strategy needed to chart a path out of the staffing crisis."


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