Deaneries will NOT be abolished, says minister

POSTGRADUATE deaneries will not be abolished under the government’s health reforms despite previous proposals, health minister Andrew Lansley has said.

Deaneries had been expected to stop operating once strategic health authorities (SHAs) are closed in April 2013. Employers were expected to take over the deaneries’ education and training functions.

But Mr Lansley has said the government has “no intention of abolishing the deaneries.” Writing in the Times, he said: “They play an essential role in the quality assurance of medical education and supporting doctors in difficulty, as well as recruitment.”

His letter highlighted the Department of Health’s response to the NHS Future Forum which stated that “the postgraduate deans and SHA staff involved in planning and developing the workforce will continue to manage and assure education and training, including the training and recruitment of junior doctors and dentists.”

Mr Lansley’s letter came in response to a letter by Tom Dolphin, chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, which raised concerns that abolishing medical deaneries could negatively impact junior doctor training.

Dr Dolphin said: “Losing the deaneries means losing the external scrutiny of training quality, leaving doctors in potentially inadequate posts without that route to raise their concerns, at a time when training is often taking a short-sighted second place to other concerns.”

Rather than continuing as standalone bodies, deaneries will potentially function as separate education departments within local education and training boards, Dr Dolphin told BMJ Careers. These boards are the employer-led organisations that will commission and oversee postgraduate medical education and training after the SHAs close.

Dr Dolphin added: “I’m happier that we’re going to have deanery functions all staying in the same place, but I do worry about the ability deaneries will have to exercise their oversight independently because of the fact that they will be based in employer-led organisations.”

The government’s plans for deaneries will be made clear when it publishes its response to the white paper Liberating the NHS: Developing the Healthcare Workforce.