Training funds for health professionals such as nurses are being diverted to meet the government’s commitment to recruit an extra 4,200 health visitors, Nursing Times has learnt.
Further analysis of strategic health authority budgets also shows significant underspending of funds intended for the pre- and post-registration training of nurses.
An NHS Yorkshire and the Humber board document reveals money is being taken out of current training budgets to pay for the additional health visitors, despite the government saying it had earmarked £577m nationally to pay for them.
The paper, dated 5 April, outlines the region’s 2011-12 education spending plans and states that the Department of Health has increased the expected level of investment in health visitors.
It says: “To meet this higher level of spend, the SHA will need to reduce spending in other areas of non-medical training and/or medical and dental training, both post-graduate and under-graduate.”
An SHA spokesman said: “We don’t have any extra ringfenced money for the target we have to meet [to increase numbers of health visitors] so we will have to use the training budget we have.”
Analysis by Nursing Times of the 10 SHAs’ finances also reveals they have run up large surpluses on money provided by the DH for nurse training through the Multi-Professional Education and Training (MPET) budget.
NHS London had a £27m MPET surplus at the end of the last financial year on 31 March. A spokeswoman said the underspend had “no impact on the numbers of people who were trained in 2010-11”.
NHS East of England’s MPET surplus was £17m, South Central’s was £15.6m, Yorkshire’s was £11.2m and the North East’s was £3m.
South East Coast and North West were planning £1.5m and £51.5m surpluses respectively, according to the most recent estimates in March. Figures for other SHAs were unavailable.
Royal College of Nursing acting education advisor Gill Robertson said: “We’re bitterly disappointed this money hasn’t been spent on educating nurses. It’s a short term gain for a long term loss. We can’t reduce training for any member of staff without it affecting patient care.”