Almost all NHS trusts in England plan to use their apprenticeship levy training fund, but would like more flexibility over how it could be spent.
Of the NHS trusts paying the levy, 95% said they planned to use rather than lose their apprenticeship funding, with more than half (51%) expecting to spend the majority of their levy funds in the first year, according to research by BPP University.
It said this is in stark contrast to other employers. Less than a fifth (18%) of organisations outside the NHS planned to use the majority of their training fund in year one, according to the university.
Almost all NHS trusts surveyed (93%) expected to use their levy funds to train their existing workforce. Nine in 10 said they would use it to support workforce planning, and 82% wanted to use it to develop talent in their organisations.
Professor Lynne Gell, director of nursing and healthcare education at BPP University, commented: “Not only are NHS employers converting many of their non-clinical training roles into apprenticeships, the vast majority are also exploring programmes in clinical roles, such as nursing apprenticeships, too.
“Just as importantly, trusts are using the opportunity the levy presents to upskill colleagues who may not have had training opportunities before.”
However, despite the positivity surrounding the levy, nine in 10 trusts said they wanted more flexibility over how they could spend their training fund. In-house training options outside apprenticeships were favoured by 84% of trusts, 82% wanted to use it to pay salaries, and 81% wanted the ability to spend it on programme overheads.
Most seemed unsure about Government proposals to allow levy-paying organisations to transfer 10% of their funds to another non-levy-paying business. Almost two-thirds (64%) said they had not yet decided whether they wanted to do so, while 21% said they would not.
Two-thirds of NHS employers planned to convert or had already converted the qualifications they offer into apprenticeships. Most trusts (79%) planned to increase the number of apprenticeships they offered.
But 70% of trusts said the 20% off-the-job training requirement was preventing them from expanding their apprenticeship programmes, while 63% said a shortage of available resources was holding them back.
Gell said that it the challenges the NHS is faced with should not be downplayed. “The expectations and pressures placed on it are unlike any other employer. That means that regulatory approval, for instance, can be far more rigorous in the NHS than outside it.
“It also means that converting existing courses into apprenticeships isn’t always straightforward, particularly where the funding has historically come from elsewhere and the roles are supernumerary.”