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HEE to replace most local branches with new workforce boards

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Health Education England is to restructure its local committees in a bid to better tackle workforce problems alongside NHS England’s five-year plan for the health service.

At a board meeting yesterday, HEE approved changes that will see its 13 local education and training boards (LETBs) – responsible for matters including producing workforce projections at a regional level – reduced to four.

At the same time, HEE will create a set of new “local workforce action boards” (LWABs) to align more closely to the 44 geographical areas identified for producing local sustainability and transformation (STP) plans, as part of delivering NHS England’s Five-Year Forward View by 2020.

“It is proposed HEE aligns its committee structure with the Five Year Forward View architecture across England locally, regionally and nationally”

HEE board papers

It said it would work with partners to agree the appropriate number of LWABs required. These are not expected to match the STP regions exactly, with about 38 currently planned.

The changes are to be introduced by 1 August 2016, following engagement with stakeholders on how to implement them before July.

In HEE board papers, it noted that under its current structure it was “not local enough to take account of the new context represented by STPs”.

“Whilst LETBs do a remarkable job in bringing partners together we do need to change some aspects of our engagement and governance model in order to ensure we reflect where the Five-Year Forward View workforce issues need to be discussed and addressed together,” stated the papers.

“We do need to change some aspects of our engagement and governance model”

HEE board papers

They added: “In order to ensure workforce issues are being dealt with comprehensively at the right level by the right partners, it is proposed HEE aligns its committee structure with the Five-Year Forward View architecture across England locally, regionally and nationally”.

The four LETBs in the future will cover London and the South East, the South, the Midlands and East, and the North.

They will continue to be responsible for delivering an annual workforce investment plan and will still bring together stakeholders from the NHS, local authorities, the education sector and the wider health and care system.

HEE said its plans for restructure were “not about reducing running costs” and that it expected no redundancies as a result of the changes.

“[Productivity] is the only game in town at the moment for the NHS to be able to afford to deliver a fully comprehensive service”

Ian Cumming

However, presenting the board papers at yesterday’s meeting, HEE chief executive Ian Cumming said. although the changes were not driven by cost reduction. it would save around £0.5m.

He also said the “vast majority” of people HEE had spoken with about the changes agreed that the proposal to create LWABs “on either the same footprint as the STP or an amalgam of more than one STP… is the sensible and appropriate way to go forward”.

Mr Cumming noted early work had shown 38 LWABs could be expected to cover the 44 STP regions.

He said initial discussions had indicated STP regions wanted HEE to help provide a baseline of the NHS and social care workforce in the local area, a workforce strategy, a transformation plan for the workforce and an action plan including required investment.

Health Education England

Ian Cumming

Ian Cumming

“I’ve had a meeting with 24 of the STP areas to date. Certainly 18 to 20 had workforce as one of their biggest issues or challenges. That’s not just shortages but workforce transformation – so how do we deliver healthcare activity in a more efficient way in the future?” he said.

However, Mr Cumming warned that the variation in the quality of a handful of the plans he had seen so far had been “enormous”, ranging from “good to bad”.

He also noted that the key focus for delivering the Five-Year Forward View by 2020 would be productivity.

“That is the only game in town at the moment for the NHS to be able to afford to deliver a fully comprehensive service to the population within the resource available.

“Nobody is going to bring a cheque book in 12 months’ time. So it’s [about] how do we deliver more care with the resource that we currently have available,” he said.

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