ESFA's supposed solution to NHS business admin conundrum

A successful alternative to the business admin level 2 apprenticeship, for NHS Trusts at least, has been found, according to the government.

A blog post published by the Education & Skills Funding Agency last week lauded the level 2 customer service programme as a viable replacement.

It has been used in Leeds Teaching Hospitals, which said the standard has proven to be “versatile, and we have used it in a range of roles within corporate services and clinical settings”, such as patient-booking services, reception areas, HR and radiology.

They have 50 apprentices currently on the programme, being delivered through Leeds City College.

Jordan Faithwaite, the education, learning and organisational development manager at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said in each setting the apprentices meet a “range of internal and external staff, patients and families, which provides experiences that enable the apprentices to achieve their required competencies”.

“Previously, the level 2 business administration apprenticeship would have been used in these areas, but the customer service apprenticeship has supported apprentices to undertake their administrative duties while also focusing on the level and delivery of service and customer experience,” she added.

But Rob Brookes, an NHS apprenticeship lead, hit out at the ESFA’s blog and said: “What a disgrace… Are they advocating the use of a standard that’s not relevant to a job role? That really fits with apprenticeship policy doesn’t it?”

He added: “I know it can work and is working for some, but it’s paperingover the cracks a bit and it only really works for patient-facing admin staff.

“I have heard that apprentices can use colleagues as ‘internal customers’, but that’s manipulating the situation to fit the apprenticeship. Not ideal, in my opinion.”

An alternative to the popular level 2 business admin framework is needed as it will be officially switched off from July 31, and the government last month outright refused to replace the programme as a new apprenticeship standard, despite lobbying by more than over 100 employers, including the NHS.

The Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education said the proposal did not meet the required length or quality of an apprenticeship standard.

Chief executive Jennifer Coupland then told FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference that signing off on the standard would “undermine” efforts to create a “wellregarded” programme.

Health Education England told FE Week it is aware of a “handful of NHS trusts nationally” that are now using the level 2 customer service apprenticeship standard where they would have previously used the level 2 business admin framework.

However, they warned this “only works for a limited number of jobroles” and therefore might not be suitable for all types of employers.

The ESFA’s blog admitted that there “may be other standards that will work better for your business if you are currently using the business administration framework at level 2”, including, for example, the level 3 business admin standard.