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NHS junior doctors to benefit from new training opportunities in independent hospitals

Date of publication: 8th Sep 2020

Categories: Latest news

Junior doctors in the NHS will now be able to undertake their training in independent hospitals thanks to a new agreement reached between independent healthcare providers and the NHS.

Independent hospitals currently deliver around half a million NHS procedures every year and since the historic agreement to make available virtually all independent hospital capacity to support the NHS in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands of NHS patients (including those needing critical cancer care) have been treated in independent facilities.

This partnership-working during the pandemic has now been further strengthened with the publication of a position statement by the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), NHS England-Improvement, Health Education England (HEE) and the Confederation of Postgraduate Schools of Surgery (CoPSS), setting out a series of high-level principles to ensure medical trainees have new opportunities to train in elective surgery or diagnostic activities taking place in the independent sector.

While a significant number of independent hospitals already support the education of junior doctors, IHPN and other key health bodies such as the Royal College of Surgeons have long been calling for the widespread provision of training in the independent sector.

The position statement published today sets out a number of principles including around the need for trainees to always be supervised by a consultant who is a recognised clinical or educational supervisor in the NHS; as well as for training to be open to trainees regardless of level (including core trainees) with appropriate levels of supervision, tailored to meet their needs. NHS indemnity must also be in place for the doctor in training to work in the independent sector site for the NHS work undertaken.

While these principles will initially apply to those providers within the NHS’ national hospital contract, further work will take place to extend the framework for clinical training into the rest of the independent sector.

David Hare, Chief Executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network said:

“Independent healthcare providers can provide an excellent training ground for junior doctors and the sector is committed to playing its part in training the next generation of medical professionals. Indeed, IHPN, along with a range of healthcare bodies, has for a number of years been calling for reform to ensure that the sector can safely and effectively fulfil its duty in this area.

“We are therefore delighted to announce this new agreement which will significantly increase the opportunities for medical trainees all over the country to further develop and hone their skills in independent sector hospitals, and ultimately improve the care delivered to patients.”

 Sheona MacLeod Acting Director of Education and Quality, Health Education England, said: 

“Health Education England welcomes the expansion in training opportunities that will be available to NHS trainees in the independent sector. It provides a timely opportunity for trainees to further their skills and gain the competencies required to become NHS Consultants. We will ensure that expected training standards are met to make sure trainees are supported to deliver the best possible patient care.”

Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Professor Cliff Shearman, said:

“Our College is committed to enabling trainees to access as much practical training in theatre as possible. Trainees are our future surgical workforce. Their skills will be sorely needed as we tackle the backlog of operations created by the COVID pandemic.

“We are delighted our work with NHSE, HEE and the Independent Health Providers Network has led to this agreement. It’s only right that NHS-funded treatment should help train the NHS workforce of the future. Every opportunity should be taken to provide them with access to good quality training opportunities.”

Dr Jeanette Dickson, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges Vice-Chair for Education and President of the Royal College of Radiologists said:

“The Academy and Medical Royal Colleges are very pleased to see today’s announcement about training provision for junior doctors in the independent sector. Colleges have been calling for this for a long time.

“All trainees need access to as much high-quality training as possible in a correctly supported environment.  As the NHS changes patient pathways due to COVID and NHS care is provided in the independent sector, then training to recognised NHS standards must be available in the independent sector.“

Dr Anna Olsson-Brown, chair of the Academy Trainee Doctors Group, said:

“This is a considered and positive move to maximise training opportunities which will be welcomed by doctors in training.

“It is a well thought out and structured approach to ensure sufficient support and supervision from experienced supervisors. It optimises access to procedural learning and the number of procedures / diagnostics needed for competence. Training in the independent setting should be incorporated into work schedules so it becomes part of regional training provision and to ensure training quality is maintained and developed over time”

Notes to editors:

  • A joint letter from NHS England and Health Education England around training in the independent sector can be found here
  • The joint position statement from IHPN, HEE, NHSE-I and CoPSS can be found on the NHS Futures Platform here