• HEE says survey it commissioned finds stakeholders want it “retaining its independence”
  • Leaders want “a clearer definition of roles between HEE and NHSE/I, and no duplication”
  • Comes as HEE’s independent role has been under question

Health Education England today said it should remain a stand-alone body distinct from NHS England and other national organisations, citing a stakeholder survey carried out for the education body. 

The independent role of the £5bn arm’s-length body has increasingly been questioned in recent years – with some wanting to see consolidation of national roles – and under pressure, with NHS England and Improvement currently taking a major role in developing an “NHS people plan”.

Its leadership has been brought closer to NHSE/I, with the NHSE/I deputy chief nurse Mark Radford last month appointed chief nurse at HEE. NHSE’s proposals for legislation last month suggested the government “revisit with partners whether national responsibilities and duties in relation to workforce functions are sufficiently clear”.

HEE commissioned the work from Ipsos Mori, which over the summer carried out an online questionnaire completed by 600 people, and 61 in-depth interviews with stakeholders.

A press release issued by HEE today about the results said: “[HEE] has a vital role to play in developing the workforce of the future as an expert partner in the healthcare system.”

It said the work found stakeholders wanted to see “HEE retaining its independence and ability to exert influence”. 

They also, it said, saw “a clear role for HEE as core partners in delivering the people plan”, which is being led by NHSI chair Baroness Dido Harding, in partnership with others, including HEE.

Respondents, which included NHS trusts and other arm’s-length bodies, said they wanted HEE to be “clear about its vision and direction”. The results went to HEE’s board today.

A press notice listed findings from the survey, including:

  • “HEE should remain a distinct organisation as part of the wider system”;
  • “Individuals within HEE are seen as supportive, and working relationships are good, but more progress could be made on joint working”; and 
  • “Workforce planning is the NHS’ biggest challenge, and one where HEE must continue to play a key role”.

It said stakeholders wanted in future:

  • “A clearer definition of roles between HEE and NHSE/I and no duplication between both organisations”; and
  • “Both organisations continuing to collaborate to ensure greater partnership working”.

HEE chief executive Ian Cumming said in the statement: “It is encouraging to see the system recognises HEE’s expertise and role in workforce planning and transformation.

”There is always more that we can achieve and we will continue to build relationships across the system and strengthen how we work with NHS England and Improvement through the development and delivery of the NHS People Plan, as well as more broadly on national programmes and through our new regional teams.”

An interim people plan was published in June. A full plan – setting out how more staff will be trained, recruited and retained – was due by the end of the year, but the timing is uncertain because of political instability.