The House of Lords must support relaxing restrictions to the Government’s apprenticeship levy scheme to free up cash for NHS trusts and address staff shortages, says a leading public sector union.
Unison is today calling for the health service to be freed from ‘restrictive’ apprenticeship funding rules as it estimates that trusts are missing out on more than £200 million in unused cash.
Currently, trusts that have not spent apprenticeship levy funding within two years have the money taken away and given to apprenticeships in other parts of the economy, as the earmarked cash cannot be used for anything else.
However, as the Lords debate the NHS funding bill today, Unison is asking peers to support a new national NHS apprenticeship fund that keeps the money within the health service and the two-year time limit being dropped.
The move would mean NHS employers could use the money to pay apprentices’ salaries and the wages of staff employed to cover them when they’re training.
Unison also argues that the Government could also address chronic staff shortages in the long-term by investing additional money in this new apprenticeship fund as part of the upcoming people plan for the NHS.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said the union hopes the Lords see that the existing apprenticeship levy model ‘isn’t fit for purpose’ and is ‘failing the NHS’.
‘Hundreds of millions of pounds that could fund more NHS staff is sitting idle while the health service buckles under the weight of tighter budgets and unfilled roles,’ she continued.
The apprenticeship levy is a payroll tax applied to large employers, designed to finance the training of apprentices and encourage more vocational training.
The NHS funding bill is due for its second reading in the House of Lords today.