The NHS will build strong partnerships with colleges and training providers, as long as they are honest about their capacity, says Lucy Hunte.

With the imminent introduction of a public sector target which will require all public sector organisations to have 2.3 per cent of their workforce on apprenticeships, the NHS will have an estimated target of 28,000 apprenticeship starts in 2017/18 – a 75 per cent increase on 2016/17.

With such a rapid ramp-up, capacity and quality of delivery from training providers is a key concern.

The annual NHS levy spend will be £27 million across London and £200 million nationally. With this money effectively being taken away from frontline services there is a huge focus across all NHS trusts on planning to maximise levy spend and ensure funds do not expire.

Realistically trusts will not have the vacancies or budget for salaries to spend the levy solely on training new recruits, although this is a key focus, so a large percentage of funds will be used on training and upskilling existing employees.

There will be no hiding place for poor quality providers

Many hospitals already deliver elements of their apprenticeship programmes in partnership with chosen training providers, and have applied to the new register of apprenticeship training providers to formalise these arrangements on either the employer-provider route or the supporting route. 

This is an attractive option for many trusts as they can be paid for their expertise, and funds that come back into the trusts via these partnerships will be incremental revenue.

Hospitals recognise that their expertise is in the clinical domain, and for non-clinical apprenticeships;most NHS trusts will continue to depend on partnerships with colleges and training providers. The focus will therefore be on building effective partnerships with training providers. Our priority is quality training and added value – we are not interested in a race to the bottom on price.

Due to some negative experiences in the past, the dedicated regional apprenticeship leads have started to share best practice around apprenticeship delivery between trusts. We are rating training providers based on factors such as success rates, FE Choices employer feedback scores, complaints and quality management and learner progress. 

This data will be shared centrally with other NHS trusts to ensure quality provision, which means no hiding place for poor providers.

We are planning a pan-London procurement exercise in the coming months, to allocate contracts to a core bank of trusted providers.

Given the demand for a large volume and variety of required standards and frameworks, multiple partnerships will be required. Colleges and training providers will need to be realistic and honest about their capacity in order to avoid over-promising and under-delivering, resulting in being removed from the preferred suppliers list.

While many NHS trusts already deliver part of their apprenticeship programmes such as the Care Certificate, we are recommending that trusts now look to do this on a formal basis and get paid for this delivery. 

For those looking at the employer-provider route, they will still be interested in partnerships with training providers who could support the MIS and administration functions as well as compliance and Ofsted requirements. 

These partnerships would then enable trusts to deliver the parts of the apprenticeship programmes in which they have the expertise, but without the added pressure of becoming fully-fledged training providers.

The beauty of many of the new apprenticeship standards is that they do not have a mandatory qualification. This gives trusts the flexibility to work with a training provider to match their existing training programmes to the standards – for example a trust’s existing leadership and development programme might map across to the new L5 management standard.

Large public sector organisations face significant challenges in implementing the new legislation, including delayed government guidance and a lack of clarity around how honorary contracts will affect workforce count. Despite this, the overall picture looks very positive, and there are substantial opportunities for training providers if they can offer high-quality provision and bespoke training packages, and adapt to trusts’ needs. 


Lucy Hunte, Apprenticeship Lead, Health Education England – North, Central & East London

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  1. I thought employer providers will be fully fledged training providers. The only difference being they can only deliver to their own employees. Will it be possible to receive funds as an employer training provider and outsource all your quality assurance, MIS and compliance?

    • Paul Mason

      Not sure what you mean by receive funds but in this context they will be able to use their Levy funds to pay for services such as this by having subcontracting arrangements in place. The application process to the register for Employer Providers is nowhere near as stringent as that of a full training provider.