Billions of pounds set aside for staff training could in future be ring-fenced after the government declared support for “protected” education budgets.

The Department of Health’s full response to the NHS Future Forum report also says there will be greater “transparency” to hold trusts to account for how the money is spent.

The response says: “Many have called for education and training funding to be protected. We agree, so we will establish transparent systems to make sure that organisations in receipt of education and training money are held to account for using it for the education and training of the NHS workforce.”

The DH had previously used its Developing the NHS Workforce consultation to set out its intention to give employers greater responsibilities and local freedoms over training.

The NHS allocates about £5bn a year on training, which is distributed through the multi-professional education and training budget, via strategic health authorities.

There are no figures on how much of this money is actually spent on training, but anecdotally there is widespread agreement that it is vulnerable to being diverted to other areas, especially when finances are tight.

A DH spokeswoman would not confirm whether the “protected” budgets amounted to “ring-fencing” but said more details would be announced in the autumn.

A spokesman for the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said while the government “hasn’t used the words ‘ring-fenced budget’” in its response this week “that’s clearly the implication”.

Council of Deans of Health policy director Matthew Hamilton welcomed the “very positive development” and said it would “make it much clearer how much is spent [on education] and on what it is spent”. However, he was keen to see further details.

The government also said in its response this week that providers will be expected to comply with a “national education and training outcomes framework”.

The transition to trusts forming groups – now known as provider-led partnerships – which would make decisions on training and workforce planning – is to be “phased”, to allow time for them to “grow and embed”.

The new system for training will not be fully functional until April 2013. Until that time SHAs will support the development of provider-led partnerships alongside Health Education England, the body being established to oversee the new system and allocate funds to trusts, via the partnerships.

HEE will develop and administer a “rigorous authorisation process” for provider-led partnerships. It will be “required” to “maintain the system for professional education and training” and report to the health secretary annually on the development of the NHS workforce.