New skills and qualifications will be required by nurses working in the health service of the future, according to the head of the new national training and education quango.
In his first interview since taking the role, Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, called for innovation in how nurses are trained to create a more flexible workforce and to improve the quality of care.
Professor Cumming stressed the importance of nurses having the right values to deliver compassionate care and he hinted at changes to the way students are selected for courses to ensure they reflect better values.
Health Education England will oversee a £5.5bn budget, alongside England’s 16 local education and training boards which will commission services locally.
Professor Cumming told Nursing Times: “We are going to need people who are trained in very different ways, people who will work in very different ways. We are still training many of our professional workforce to work in the health service of the past.
“We need to train people who are flexible and adaptable and make sure that education being commissioned is of the highest quality, value for money and reflects the people we want to produce at the end of it.”
He called for innovation in skills provision, expressing an interest in the joint nursing and pharmacy degrees available in the US.
Professor Cumming said the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry had “brought into sharp relief” the need to ensure prospective workers - including nurses - possessed the right values to work in the NHS.
Universities and training providers could, he suggested, improve their selection processes by better selecting people who had demonstrated the right values to join a caring profession.
“You will find some fantastic practice with regard to selection and you will find some places where more could be done,” he said of them.
He added: “HEE exists for one thing only and that is to make sure the highest possible quality of care is delivered to NHS and non-NHS patients.” This would also involve working with the existing workforce to improve quality, he said.
Professor Cumming, former chief executive of NHS West Midlands, said HEE would give greater freedom to LETBs and would not be a regulator breathing down their necks.
The sector would have a “distributed model of leadership”, he added.
“I think our style with LETBs is focusing on the ‘what’ and they will have the freedom on the ‘how’. They will agree their objectives with us, they will have their delegated resource to get on with it and then we will hold them to account.”
His comments come at a time some student nurses have complained of the difficulty of obtaining staff nurse jobs, while the government has had to fast-track training for health visitors after a dramatic slump in numbers.
Professor Cumming added: “There are some parts of the country and some trusts where I do not believe workforce planning has been taken as seriously as it should have been in terms of thinking about the consequences for themselves about the supply of the workforce in the future.”