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DH invites comments on reshaping healthcare education

Simplifying the system for educating and training healthcare staff - so it can be more responsive to an evolving healthcare system - is at the heart of an ambitious strategy launched by the Department of Health.

Liberating the NHS: Developing the Healthcare Workforce, launched in December, outlines proposals that will mean an annual investment of £5 billion in NHS education and training, driven by patient need and led by local healthcare providers.

The new system follows the White Paper reforms in health outlined last summer. These provide employers with greater autonomy and accountability for planning and developing the workforce, alongside greater professional ownership of the quality of education and training. There will also be more opportunity to engage higher education, local authorities, social care providers and Health and Wellbeing boards in education development.

Consultation on the proposed reforms to the education and training system will last until March 2011, to provide plenty of time for people to have their say. We are expecting a broad response, given that the investment in education and training is also an investment in patient safety and improving health outcomes.

I anticipate that providers, professions and educators will not shrink from the new responsibilities outlined in the proposals. Instead, I believe they will want to play an active part in shaping the new system so it is both fit for purpose and aspires to excellence.

With over 1.4 million people working for the health service in England, and many others supporting NHS services in community care, social care and public health, these changes are relevant to a large proportion of the working population. I am hoping therefore that staff and their representative bodies will have their say.

It is also important to remember that the proposed changes recognise the proud traditions in this country of commitment to the highest possible standards in educating and training health professionals.

We are now at a critical time where it is possible to build on these strong traditions but also to ensure that education and training remains up to date and relevant to the nation’s health needs.

Clare Chapman (pictured) is director general of workforce at the NHS