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Raids on health training money must stop, say health educators

11 March 2008 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Medical professionals and educators have today warned that a failure to stop Strategic Health Authorities raiding money earmarked for health education and training will have a devastating effect on the UK's ability to train the next generation of nurses and key NHS health professionals.

Members of the Health Joint Liaison Committee* have said falling student numbers, decreased contact time with staff and increasing workloads are a direct result of cuts in funding for health educators. A snapshot report of health professionals by UCU has revealed a spate of devastating cuts across the country resulting in staff trying to do more for less, a drop in student numbers and a rise in the student:staff ratio.

The report revealed:

  • over a third of higher education institutions (HEIs) who responded to UCU's survey had cut jobs among health educators in 2007
  • two-thirds of HEIs had had to reduce student intake because of funding difficulties passed on by Strategic Health Authorities
  • workload has increased (91% of respondents reported an increase over the last 12 months)
  • student:staff ratios have worsened (68% reporting an increase over the last 12 months)
  • student contact time is down (47% of respondents reporting a decrease)
  • the cuts are impacting on staff morale and development, and will impact on patient care.

The full report can be found here [131kb].

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We have been here before - the shortage of nurses in the late 1990s was a direct result of cuts earlier in that decade. Universities need investment and stability, not boom and bust, and this vital investment in our country's future should be ring fenced and under strategic control of higher education funding bodies not NHS managers whose first priority is to balance the books.

'It is vital that funding for health training is protected and the time has come to consider whether the Department of Health is able to do this. We cannot allow current short-term political expediency to create a future crisis in the NHS.'

Jill Higgins, Director of Practice and Development at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: 'With significant increases in government spending on health care and ongoing reforms to provide more personal and accessible services, we need to ensure that we are training the right numbers of health and well-being professionals, equipped with the right knowledge and skills.'

The House of Commons Health Committee recently called workforce planning in the NHS disastrous and said 'If a health service, rather than a sickness service, is to be created, then it is crucial that the primary care workforce is expanded and improved.'

* The Health Joint Liaison Committee is made up of the University and College Union, British Association of Occupational Therapists, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the College of Occupational Therapists, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Nursing,