Junior doctors in the NHS will now be able to undertake their training in private and independent hospitals thanks to a new agreement reached between the sector and the health service.
Britain’s major health bodies have backed the initiative, announced by the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) this week.
It comes after a deal was reached earlier this year to set aside virtually all independent hospital capacity to support the NHS in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
Independent hospitals currently deliver around half a million NHS procedures every year. Since the historic agreement earlier this year to set aside even more private hospital capacity, to deal with potential fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the collaboration between the sectors continues to grow stronger.
An IHPN spokesman said that while a significant number of independent hospitals already support the education of junior doctors, 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 initiative is outlined in a position statement by the IHPN, NHS England-Improvement, Health Education England (HEE) and the Confederation of Postgraduate Schools of Surgery (CoPSS) and sets 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.
Those principles include 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.
IHPN Chief Executive David Hare said that 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”.
He said: “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, HEE, added: “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.”
And Professor Cliff Shearman, Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 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 IHPN has led to this agreement. It’s only right that NHS-funded treatment should help train the NHS workforce of the future.”
The joint position statement can be found here.