Figures obtained by NT via the Freedom of Information Act show that almost £96m in education budgets is expected to remain unspent on training this year.
Six SHAs – South Central, Yorks and Humber, London, South West, East Midlands and South East Coast – have all predicted multiprofessional education and training (MPET) budget underspends for 2007–2008, ahead of producing their final accounts at the end of the financial year.
The figures reveal wide variations in the scale of the problem. For example, NHS London, which was given the largest MPET budget of £1.02bn for the year, forecast it would leave £33m unspent.
But South Central, given a significantly lower MPET allocation of £291m, predicted it would leave £24.6m unspent.
Moreover, the same SHAs – with the exception of South East Coast and the addition of East of England – predicted a total of £47.9m of non-medical education and training (NMET) funding would be passed to central reserves.
Between the two financial years of 2005 and 2007, SHAs diverted almost £500m away from education to plug deficits.
After this was revealed a service-level agreement was put in place that unions and academics hoped would go far enough to protect training funds from being raided again.
But this week a Department of Health spokesperson said the agreement was not to protect funding but to ‘hold SHAs to account for the delivery of the workforce required to deliver services to patients’.
It appears that SHAs are now using education money to end the financial year in surplus.
In the last quarterly report to be published by the DH, all 10 authorities predict surpluses of hundreds of millions of pounds in the 2007–2008 financial year.
Gail Adams, Unison’s head of nursing, said: ‘What I would like to make sure is that money is not lost by being offered up as a surplus and is used entirely on education
Paul Turner, executive officer for the Council of Deans for Health, said: ‘The only way of putting pressure on the SHAs is to say to the Department of Health: “look very carefully at what they have continued to divert away from education in light of their over all surpluses”.’