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Delivering high quality, effective, compassionate care: Developing the right people with the right skills and the right values

A mandate from the Government to Health Education England: April 2016 to March 2017

It is the people of the NHS who deliver care to patients and support to families when they are feeling at their most vulnerable. It is NHS staff who ensure ours is rated as the fairest and most patient-centred health system in the world, achieving near record levels of satisfaction and record lows in dissatisfaction. It is because of our NHS people that our country is rightly proud of our NHS.

Ensuring we have exceptional people is not achieved by chance. We invest over £4.8 billion a year to ensure the NHS has the right staff, in the right numbers with the right skills. The NHS typically has about 140,000 students in training at any one time. It takes over three years to train a nurse and an allied health professional, a minimum of thirteen years to train a consultant doctor and ten years for a General Practitioner.

Stewarding this formidable training system on behalf of the NHS is now my responsibility as Health Minister, alongside that of Health Education England who ensure delivery of the NHS education and training system.

The Government has set Health Education England an ambitious and stretching mandate, one that is central to delivering on our key priorities and underpins the vision set out in the Five Year Forward View. I am clear that our education and training system needs to embed a learning and safety culture committed to eradicating variations in care in all that we do from the day our future colleagues enter training in universities, to when they reach our wards, no matter where in the country that is, and in their ongoing career development.

Over this coming year, we need also to strengthen our leadership capacity and develop skills alongside our successful medical and non-medical training record. Running NHS organisations is rewarding but it is challenging. It requires people with exceptional skills, resilience and intellectual capacity at every level. We need to recognise this and build for the future. That is why responsibility for the NHS Leadership Academy has moved to Health Education England. I expect to see rapid and demonstrable progress, both in ensuring the NHS has ready access to tomorrow’s leaders and in giving staff the skills they need now to improve operational performance and delivery.

Through the taxpayer, the Government has committed extra investment of £3.8 billion to the NHS front line during 2016/17. This must come with significant reform - education and training is not immune from this. As announced in the 2015 Spending Review, the funding system for nursing, midwifery and allied health pre-registration courses will change and no longer be funded through NHS bursaries or Health Education England funded tuition. From 1 August 2017, new students starting on these courses will be able to access the higher education student support system, providing them typically with up to 25 per cent more financial support while at university in comparison to the current system.

This will create a system which is better for students, better for universities and better for the NHS. It will enable universities to offer up to 10,000 additional nursing, midwifery and allied health professional training places over this parliament. It will also mean more people who want to take these subjects at degree-level at university will be given that opportunity. Around two-thirds of nursing applicants are currently turned down. Importantly, it will also lead to a larger pool of highly qualified, home-grown staff being available to NHS employers. This will reduce the NHS’s reliance on expensive agency and overseas staff.

The NHS should be at the vanguard of widening participation and social mobility. For too long we have lagged behind the best: we fail to provide the opportunities that should be a fundamental value of our NHS. Our workforce should reflect the makeup and background of the patients it treats; I expect to see Health Education England make real progress in this area.

Central to this will be the rapid advancement of the NHS Apprenticeship agenda and, working with NHS employers, the development of far reaching apprentice standards that the NHS wants. Not everyone who joins the NHS comes through a traditional route and we should welcome this. A key delivery priority for Health Education England is the development of a new Nursing Associate role. This new role will offer opportunities for progression for those in caring roles in the NHS. Once developed and approved, the Nursing Associate role will provide a pathway for progression to a nursing degree, allowing talented health care support workers to study towards becoming a registered nurse through the apprentice route.

Finally, we must begin in earnest the work that will be needed to ensure that our NHS has the workforce it requires not just next year but in the next generation. We must put in place the training structures and pipeline that will secure for our NHS the people, the skills and the values that will guarantee that it maintains its world-leading position.

This mandate sets out clear and specific deliverables for Health Education England in return for the significant investment it has been given and I look forward to seeing real progress in the months ahead.