Over 4,000 NHS junior doctors trained in the independent health sector since 2020

Over 4,000 NHS junior doctors have undertaken their training in independent healthcare providers since 2020, following a landmark agreement to increase training opportunities in the sector.

In a new report published today, the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) sets out the progress that has been made since the agreement was reached in September 2020 between IHPN, Health Education England (HEE), NHS England and the Confederation of Postgraduate Schools of Surgery to ensure the independent healthcare sector is able to play its part in training the next generation of medical professionals.

With the cancellation of many elective procedures in the NHS due to the pandemic, independent providers were able to offer valuable training opportunities for thousands of NHS junior doctors and ensure their training was not disrupted – particularly as part of its delivery of routine orthopaedic and ophthalmology treatment.

IHPN’s report – which had input from the British Orthopaedic Trainees Association (BOTA), Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), Royal College of Physicians (RCP), Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA), Royal College of Ophthalmology (RCOpth), and Health Education England (HEE) – sets out the cultural shift around medical training in the last 18 months, with a recognition of the widespread benefits of having the independent sector as a training provider and the need for all parts of the healthcare system to work together.

With a commitment to building on the progress made since 2020, the report also contains a number of recommendations to ensure that NHS junior doctors can more easily access the high quality training in the independent sector, including: greater coordination and information sharing across the health system to enable trainees to move more easily between NHS and independent sector sites and avoid duplication of paperwork; more comprehensive data collection around trainees’ experiences in the independent sector to improve both the access to, and quality of, training; and better planning and communication around training in the independent sector to both junior doctors and the wider healthcare system to reduce regional variations.

Dr Howard Freeman, Clinical Director of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) said:

“I’m delighted to launch this report which demonstrates the critical role independent providers have played in ensuring many thousands of junior doctors could continue their training and development throughout the pandemic and support the delivery of high quality care to patients.

“The last 18 months have seen a welcome cultural shift on this agenda, with training seen as the responsibility of the whole healthcare system, and a recognition of the widespread benefits of having the independent sector as a training provider.

“While there is still much to do – particularly around taking a more “system-wide” approach to communication and data sharing around trainees  – we need to continue building on this momentum and ensure independent providers can fully contribute and play their part in improving medical training for the long term.”

Sheona McLeod, Deputy Medical Director at Health Education England (HEE), said:

“Health Education England works across the system to ensure that the best quality training placements are available for doctors in training. We have been exploring all the reported barriers to placements in the independent sector where NHS patients are treated, and working with the independent sector to address these and broaden the opportunities for doctors in training.”

Lolade Giwa-Brown BSc (Hons) MBBS MRCS, President, Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), said:

“We are very pleased at ASiT that steps are being and have been taken to highlight the importance of training in the Independent Sector. A key message from this report is that when done well, training in the independent sector is highly possible and can be very rewarding for the whole team, including the hospital staff, trainees, trainers and most importantly, the trainers.

“The reduction in the red tape involved in trainees moving around different providers and the culture change to encourage training is crucial. We are very keen at ASiT to continue to help develop and implement this work to ensure the current inequity in access to training in the IS across UK and ROI is addressed so every trainee is able to access this.”

Miss Fiona Myint, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) said:

“The Royal College of Surgeons of England have long been calling for all elective NHS operations to include a surgical trainee, including those that are delivered in the independent sector. This is vital as a substantial volume of NHS work, such as hip and knee replacements, now takes place there.

“We appreciate the considerable amount of work that has been done to establish guidance to support an increase in surgical training in the independent sector.  We are keen to ensure that the national guidance is implemented as fully as possible at the local level.

“We are committed to working with the NHS and the independent sector to overcome the barriers to accessing training, so that opportunities are offered consistently across the country.”