University groups call for cross-government health education taskforce

19 February 2024

With the latest UCAS data showing applications are down for medicine, nursing and midwifery courses, leaders from the higher education sector are calling for a new taskforce to effectively deliver NHS England’s Long-Term Workforce Plan.

In a jointly-written letter sent to the Secretaries of State for Education and Health, a coalition of university mission groups and educators have called on the government to convene a new ministerial taskforce to ensure greater collaboration between relevant government departments, the NHS, and healthcare educators on the ground. The letter was co-written and signed by the chief executives of University Alliance, the Russell Group, Million Plus, GuildHE and London Higher, as well as the Council of Deans of Health.

Citing the Covid-19 pandemic as an example of universities working effectively with the NHS and government in response to national health challenges, the letter argues ‘a similar unified effort is needed to secure the long-term clinical-skills pipeline.’

While commending the ‘significant progress’ made by the government so far, the leaders argue ‘there is considerably more to do to realise the ambitious long-term goals of the plan, and to secure the workforce required to meet the healthcare needs of a growing, ageing population’ – with universities’ teaching and research capabilities playing a vital role.

 The mission groups argue the taskforce would:

  • bring together representatives from the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care to meet alongside representatives from NHS England, health regulators, local government and higher education providers
  • effectively co-ordinate activity to bolster student recruitment, work to find ways of increasing the capacity of clinical placements and medical school places, and develop strategies to ensure the recruitment and retention of staff
  • help realise the Long-Term Plan’s ambitious targets for degree apprenticeships, and to tackle the low funding and high regulatory burden associated with delivering them.

Vanessa Wilson, CEO of University Alliance said: "With applications down for medicine, nursing and midwifery courses, the need for a unified approach to secure the future pipeline of healthcare workers is becoming ever more critical. The higher education sector is united in calling for the government to convene a ministerial cross-government health education taskforce to co-ordinate the delivery of the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan, involving universities as key partners. This collaborative approach will ensure greater join-up between government departments, the NHS and the universities who educate the NHS workforce of the future."

Rachel Hewitt, CEO of MillionPlus said: "MillionPlus is pleased to join voices from a united higher education sector in calling for a cross-governmental health education task force. Universities have a vital part to play in helping deliver the Long-Term Workforce Plan and to further help these institutions train the staff that the NHS needs, a joined up approach across Westminster is urgently required."

Joanna Burton, Head of Policy for Higher Education at the Russell Group said: “The Long-Term Workforce Plan is rightly ambitious in its approach to boosting the vital pipeline of healthcare staff to the NHS. Universities will be central to the success, delivering more medical school training and degree apprenticeships, but this expansion will require careful planning and co-ordination. We fully support a new taskforce to holistically assess progress, barriers and solutions, and to best support the Long-Term Plan.”

Dr Diana Beech, CEO of London Higher said: "At London Higher, we recognise that meeting the nation’s future healthcare needs is a collaborative endeavour, and our London Healthcare Education Group (LHEG) brings London’s healthcare education providers together with NHS England to enable a quicker and more effective response to challenges in the capital. Given the success of this unified effort in the London region, we therefore endorse the establishment of a cross-governmental health education taskforce to ensure join-up at the national level and encourage cross-sector collaboration right across the country."

Gordon McKenzie, CEO of GuildHE said: "Recruiting and retaining enough healthcare and allied health professionals is essential to meet the ever-increasing needs of society, and a more strategic approach is needed bringing together all partners including universities. Convening a new ministerial taskforce will form an alliance of government, the NHS and healthcare educators that ensures the coherent and strategic steer crucial to deliver the goals of NHS England’s Long-Term Workforce Plan, effectively and at scale."

Read the letter in full below. 


Joint letter on cross-government health education taskforce

Media Enquiries
Policy Enquiries

Follow us on Twitter