The Pros and Cons of Working for an Arms-Length Body

Posted by: Jess Anderson - Posted on:

As the Winter Pressure season is in full swing across the NHS I thought I would use my next blog to reflect on what it’s like to be working for an arms-length body during this period. While most of the other trainees are based at NHS Trusts and CCGs, some of us are based at arms-length bodies – think NHS Improvement, NHS Digital or in my case Health Education England where I’m part of the Workforce Planning and Intelligence team.

Talking to other trainees, reading their Tweets or following them on SnapChat it’s clear that a lot of them are under a huge amount of pressure as they try to balance increased demand with reduced capacity, while still always trying to provide high quality patient care. In contrast I haven’t really noticed a change of pace in my work compared with the summer. Yes, I still have deadlines. Yes, I still have work to do, reports to write, people to meet but so do all the trainees (and other staff) working at NHS Trusts, they just have to deal with additional pressures. It made me feel quite guilty that I wasn’t experiencing this and it did make me question the value of arms-length bodies. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely LOVE my placement, but in at a time when resources are tight it would be naïve not to consider it.

But when I actually stopped to think about it Health Education England plays a crucial role in ensuring that patients receive the best possible care. Once doctors have graduated from medical school HEE is responsible for their continued training so they have the expertise to provide outstanding clinical care. HEE are also responsible for funding the placements of nurses, physician associates and other allied health professionals which again is crucial in helping them get the experience they need to develop into outstanding health care professionals. The team I work in uses data to try and forecast what healthcare staff will be required in 5, 10 or 20 years so that the training and placements can be put in place to ensure there are enough staff to meet these demands. This isn’t easy and there are always other factors that impact on whether these requirements will be met, notably how much budget the NHS gets from government, but without HEE this role wouldn’t be performed. So, while it may not always be obvious how arms-lengths bodies impact on quality patient care, rest assured they do and are always working hard in the background.

If you have any question about the scheme please feel free to Tweet me @JessyDouble

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