Removing Health Education England from the protected NHS budget would result in cuts to frontline NHS services, its chief executive has warned.
The majority of money spent by his organisation went directly to NHS trusts that employed trainee clinicians, said Ian Cumming.
Any cuts to that budget would therefore have a direct impact on NHS provider organisations, he told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal.
Mr Cumming’s comments come after health policy think tanks last week warned that the Treasury, as part of the comprehensive spending review, was considering redefining the NHS ringfence to cover only NHS England’s £101bn budget.
This would leave arm’s length bodies such as Health Education England and Public Health England at risk of budget cuts, they warned.
Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said he had been told by several civil service sources that the definition of the ringfence would only apply to NHS England. King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby also understood this would be the case.
“Absolutely the budget should be ringfenced, because the vast majority of what we do is direct frontline expenditure on the NHS”
But Mr Cumming said Health Education England’s £4.9bn budget must remain part of the protected budget.
He said: “Absolutely the budget should be ringfenced, because the vast majority of what we do is direct frontline expenditure on the NHS.
“If that money that we spend on the NHS is not put within the ringfence, then we are taking a part of the budget that is actually being used for the delivery of very direct patient care and subjecting it to some sort of cuts that the [government’s] intention is the NHS will be protected from,” he said.
He estimated between £3bn and £3.5bn of Health Education England’s budget went directly to NHS trusts, with the remaining money indirectly funding NHS services and being spent on university undergraduate education.
He added: “As far as I am aware, the discussions are still very live and the spending review submission is obviously a matter for the [Department of Health] and other government departments.
“My view is very clear that HEE’s budget should be within the ringfence,” he stated.