Competition will be distorted if private providers are hit with an unreasonable levy to support NHS staff training costs, the network for independent and third sector providers has warned.
NHS Partners has told the NHS Future Forum that independent providers also deserve greater credit for the amount of training they already provide and the opportunity to do more.
The Department of Health has proposed raising a levy from providers – including the independent sector – to pay for the cost of training NHS staff.
Monitor chair David Bennett has previously indicated to the Commons health committee that “an element” of commissioners’ payments to the independent sector could be withheld, to help pay for training and therefore level the playing field for competition purposes.
But NHS Partners has argued in its consultation response that the sector’s contribution to education and training has “historically been overlooked”.
It has called for “a much more detailed and accurate picture [of who provides what training to NHS staff] to resolve those factors which limit education provision by the independent sector”.
The response added: “Without this information, it would be impossible to create a levy that avoids distorting competition”. There was also the risk of “reducing the valuable training and education already provided by the [independent] sector”.
The response sets out ways in which private providers already pay for training programmes “that go beyond their own employees”.
For example, Care UK provides “no-cost” clinical practice placements for students at most of its 60 healthcare sites and some independent sector organisations provide free training to NHS staff, the document says.
Independent sector treatment centres are “well placed to offer extensive training working closely with local NHS trusts”, it says.
But private providers’ involvement varies regionally because of contractual restrictions on the types of activity they can carry out and a lack of engagement from the royal colleges, the response says.
The DH is next month expected to set out its education and training plans in more detail, after the NHS Future Forum has submitted its second report.
NHS Partners director David Worskett said: “We have some real concerns that the Future Forum, from which the independent sector was deliberately excluded, doesn’t have the expertise to know what happens in the independent sector regarding education and training.”
He said he was worried the forum would fail to understand that the “tilt” in the playing field towards the NHS due to its training responsibilities did not outweigh the competitive benefits it enjoyed such as a state-subsidised pension scheme.
The independent sector “would love” to carry out more training but was often shut out from opportunities, he added.
But British Medical Association junior doctors committee chair Tom Dolphin said: “Private providers don’t do anything like as much training as the NHS providers. The system’s just [being changed] to ensure that everyone who benefits from NHS trained staff has to factor that into their business plan.”