Health Education England and NHS England complete merger

NHS England and Health Education England have legally merged to create a new, single organisation to lead the NHS in England.

This follows the merger of NHS Digital and NHS England on the 1 February 2023, and brings the NHS’ people, skills, digital, data and technology expertise together into one national organisation to deliver high-quality services for all in England. 

As the body responsible for the education and training of the health workforce, Health Education England has played a critical role in improving the quality of health and care services and growing the number of staff working in the NHS over the last decade.

The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world, with 1.3 million staff, and the compassion, skill and dedication of its workforce remains the driving force in delivering high-quality care and enabling NHS patients to benefit from world-leading research, innovation and technology.

Following parliamentary approval, the legal merger was formally confirmed at the end of last week, with the regulations which transfer the functions of Health Education England to NHS England made by ministers on 28th March 2023.

The transfer sees NHS England assume responsibility for all activities previously undertaken by Health Education England, including planning, recruiting, educating and training the health workforce, and ensuring it has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours in place to support the delivery of excellent healthcare to patients and the public.

As a single, streamlined organisation, the new NHS England will build on the strengths and expertise of its legacy organisations, while avoiding duplicate activities – enabling it to be even more responsive to changing demand and to the biggest challenges, priorities and opportunities of the health system.

It is expected that, by the end of 2023/24, the new organisation will be between 30-40% smaller than the current combined size of NHS England, Health Education England and NHS Digital.

The new, more integrated organisation will also support and accelerate the move to greater partnership working through integrated care systems (placed on statutory footing from 1 July 2022), by speaking with a single national voice and modelling effective joint working.

NHS England’s Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “Today marks a major milestone as we come together as one single organisation. This puts workforce, data, digital and technology at the heart of our plans to transform the NHS, enabling better, more joined-up decision-making at system, regional and national levels, and more effective and efficient use of our resources.

“Our colleagues from Health Education England bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise, which will be invaluable in our aim to help the NHS improve the health and care of the people it serves.”

Dr Navina Evans, Chief Workforce, Training and Education Officer at NHS England, said: “I want to thank every single one of my former Health Education England colleagues and partners for their contribution. 

“There remains so much to do, so now is the time to build on the achievements of Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England. Bringing together the three organisations allows us to align service, workforce, and financial planning and delivery. A united approach to improving service, embedding new technology and ensuring the workforce has the skills and numbers to deliver improvements is a huge opportunity for the NHS, one we intend to take together.”

Health Minister, Will Quince, said: “Merging Health Education England into NHS England will help ensure the healthcare workforce has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours to support the delivery of excellent healthcare to patients and the public.

“Following the merger with NHS Digital earlier this year, this will bring specialist skills, expertise and data and technology together under one roof to streamline decision making and improve efficiency. 

“Alongside the forthcoming long-term workforce plan to support and grow the workforce, this merger will help build a stronger NHS with patients at the centre.”