Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Training Reforms Could Damage Patient Care

By Ben Aulakh

A senior member of the British Medical Association who represents junior doctors says she fears proposed changes to how staff are trained ‘could threaten patient care.’

Dr Shree Datta, Co-Chair of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee warned, in a speech delivered to the BMA’s junior doctors conference, that reforms ‘could fundamentally change the character of the NHS in which we work.’

The Coalition is planning a major overhaul of how the training of NHS staff is commissioned, run and paid for.

They are proposing that Strategic Heath Authorities, which currently allocate funding from the government to train doctors in their areas, are replaced by healthcare provider skills networks.

These networks will be made up of GP’s, hospital managers, training staff from universities and colleges, as well as staff from local councils who provide social care

These consortia will then plan, commission and pay for the training of staff in their areas of the country, using a miz of their own fudning and government money.

The proposed changes to how NHS staff are trained are just one raft of the reforms proposed in Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s controversial Health Bill.

However Dr Dhatta said, “These [reforms] do as much to threaten the future provision of high quality patient care as anything in the Health Bill itself.

“They propose to invent a new system to commission, deliver, and quality-manage training through large-scale, untested, changes to the current system.”

Dr Dhatta also cited the failure of MTAS, the Medical Training Application Service, an online application system for specialty training that spectacularly failed in 2007, as a reason not to rush though changes.

“You don’t have to go back very far in history to find out what happens when governments try to rush through changes to medical training.

“I am sure many of you remember MTAS, are we really expected to believe that, with an entirely new structure in place, the recruitment process will run smoothly in a year’s time.”

A government document explaining the changes says that the new system ‘will be good value for money, more people have a say over how the health service plans education and training for staff.

It adds that ‘if decisions were made at a more local level it would help people work more closely together and plan things better.’

One of the most contentious areas of the proposed reforms is the creation of a new national body responsible for training, Health Education England.

The government says that this organisation will ‘be a lean and expert organisation, free from day-to-day political interference that will look at what healthcare staff the whole country needs.

However Dr Dhatta offered a very different view on the new organisation, describing it as ‘a mega body that will hold the purse strings for our training, but with no one to answer to.’

Photograph from www.gponline.com

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