• NHS chief executives told HEE will become accountable to NHSI
  • Statement says they will work more closely together
  • Leadership Academy will move to NHSI

Health Education England will be made “accountable” to NHS Improvement, chief executives have been told, as a number of measures are announced to create “a more coherent approach to workforce development”.

The organisations have confirmed a range of measures aimed at getting HEE’s work more lined up behind the NHS’s view of its pressing workforce problems, and saving costs.

A statement today said they would ”work more closely together to ensure the national workforce system is well aligned”. It pointed out that NHSI was “shifting its focus from regulation to improvement [including] the creation of a chief people officer role and a people directorate, which will be hosted by [NHSI] and will be responsible for providing a cohesive approach to recruiting, retaining, deploying and developing the current NHS workforce”.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock mentioned the changes on stage to local NHS chief executives at an event about the NHS long term plan yesterday. The arm’s length bodies were not expecting the news, and it appears it may have been revealed mistakenly.

Those present said it meant HEE would be “accountable” to and “report” via NHS Improvement rather than directly to government. The formalities of that are unclear, and HEE will continue to be a separate organisation with a board.

The organisations were rushing to inform staff this morning, and have confirmed to HSJ that it will mean:

  • HEE will agree its annual “mandate” with NHSI before agreeing it with government, to “ensure that workforce plans are more closely aligned with NHS service plans”.
  • The NHS Leadership Academy will move from HEE to NHSI in April, subject to consultation – having only moved from NHSE to HEE in April 2016.
  • Restructuring HEE’s four regional teams to line up with the seven new joint NHSE and I regions.

NHSI chief Ian Dalton said in a statement: “A strong workforce is critical to the future of the NHS. By integrating the work of Health Education England with NHS Improvement, we will develop a more coherent approach to workforce development across the NHS.

“I look forward to building a closer working relationship with Health Education England and welcoming colleagues from the NHS Leadership Academy from next April.”

HEE chief Ian Cumming said: “As set out in the draft workforce strategy HEE has always said closer alignment between service, financial and workforce planning is essential and I therefore welcome greater collaboration between the bodies responsible for these areas. At national, regional and local level NHS must have confidence that our organisations are working together on workforce challenges to support both day to day delivery and the long term plan.

“The move of the NHS Leadership Academy to NHSI also allows the Academy to align even more closely with NHSI’s responsibility for talent management.”

HEE has often been the subject of criticism from local NHS leaders in recent years, who have accused it of being ineffective and not helpful with the current major staffing problems. 

One trust chief executive welcomed the change but said it had to mean HEE “stop peddling their favourite causes and get on board with the serious stuff we are facing every day”.

HEE has previously pointed out that its legal responsibilities are to develop the future workforce, rather than address day-to-day requirements and challenges.