The newly appointed head of Health Education England has told HSJ she will make it “absolutely clear” to trusts that the £5bn NHS training budget must not be raided for other uses.
HEE’s senior responsible officer Chris Outram also confirmed the body, which will allocate training budgets and authorise groups of trusts to oversee education locally, will not be formally established until March 2013.
This is a year later than planned, despite the government’s pledge, in its response to the NHS Future Forum’s report in June, to “ensure that HEE is put in place quickly”.
Fears have been expressed that training structures were winding down before the new organisations had been fully established.
Ms Outram said the timescale has been pushed back in response to the delayed abolition of strategic health authorities. SHAs, which often host deaneries and are responsible for distributing training funds, are now due to close in July 2013.
HEE will be set up as a shadow body in October 2012. In the meantime Ms Outram will work on the organisation’s structure, staff and policies.
She said she would ensure another of the government’s pledges – to protect training money – was fulfilled.
“We want to make it absolutely clear where the funding’s going and that it’s being used for what is intended,” she said.
Under Department of Health plans, groups of trusts, known as provider led networks, will distribute training funds locally and could also provide education.
Ms Outram said HEE will authorise networks “in the second half of 2012-13” and, as set out previously by the DH, hold them to account through an outcomes framework.
The authorisation criteria and outcomes framework are still being developed, but Ms Outram said that if the networks “didn’t deliver the plans” they would be held accountable. “The expectation is they will not spend [the money] in other ways.”
Networks’ separate legal status from trusts means the money, while not technically ring fenced, would not be able to be absorbed into providers’ service budgets, she said.
However, HEE would not have the power to simply withhold money from large networks that did not play by the rules of the game, she added.
Full guidance on the changes is due later this year, probably after a second report from the NHS Future Forum. One of its four strands is looking at education.