More than 100m earmarked for the training of healthcare professionals in England - at least a quarter of which was allocated for nurse training - has not been spent on this vital area, figures reveal
Some strategic health authorities have skimmed more than£70m from education and training budgets for 2007-2008, while others have left a total of around£30m in training
Freedom of Information Act requests by NT identified four SHAs that have raided budgets initially intended for training by the government.
South Central, East Midlands, South East Coast and East of England SHAs have cumulatively diverted almost£75m away from their original Multi-Professional Education and Training (MPET) budget allocations, provided by the Department of Health for the last financial year (see table).
Moreover, six of the 10 SHAs have declared a final MPET underspend of£28.8m (see map).
However, not all of the SHAs have reported their data. Neither NHS London nor NHS West Midlands would reveal their figures, citing technicalities.
NHS London previously forecasted an MPET underspend of£49m, meaning the overall amount of money taken from nurse training could be far higher than£100m, while NHS West Midlands has refused to divulge any figures.
However, budget figures given to NT by the DH reveal further discrepancies. The government said it gave two SHAs a total of almost£12m more than they claimed in their FOI responses.
So the final MPET which was allocated by government for 2007-2008 but did not reach the frontline could eventually surpass£164m.
Betty Kershaw, RCN acting education adviser, said: ‘We should be seriously concerned.’
For example, she said, training would be needed to comply with the government’s plans to move large areas of NHS service provision from acute care into the community, as well as warning that the funding cuts could result in the loss of nurse tutors for future generations of students.
‘They will affect the ability of the universities to respond to continuing professional development in respect not only to community services but also to pre-registration,’ she said.
‘Universities are going to be the ones who have to meet the demands being brought about by the ageing workforce we have now,’ she added.
NT’s investigation shows that SHAs have not learnt their lesson from previous years. Between the financial years 2005 and 2007 SHAs diverted almost£500m from staff education and training.
The government refused to ringfence the budgets but instead put in place a service level agreement (SLA) with SHAs, which states that they must spend the money to meet
Paul Turner, executive officer, Council of Deans for Health, said: ‘We will continue to have conversations with the Department of Health around the way they implement the service level agreement and will continue to be concerned if money allocated is not used in that area.
‘We would hope the DH would take a strong view with the SHAs that have not spent all of their allocation for education purposes,’ he added.
Junior health minister Lord Darzi told parliament last month that the DH was not planning to ensure underspent funds from this year were put back into training for 2008-2009 (NT News, 20 May, p5).
However, NT has been told by the DH that it is currently reviewing the performance of the SHAs against the SLA for 2007-2008 and is also considering toughening up the agreement for next year.
Funds diverted by SHAs (in£millions)
|SHA||DH Allocation 07/08||Topsliced budget 07/08||Difference|
|South East Coast||238||230||8|
|East of England||333||301||32|