Cuts to funding for continuing professional development that will see budgets halved this year nationally have sparked warnings that ongoing training for nurses could be under threat.
In March, Health Education England agreed to reduce funding for “workforce development” by around 50% for each of its 13 local education and training boards across the country.
“It’s difficult to see how the choice to cut the CPD budgets has been made”
This money – which will be reduced from a total of £205m in 2015-16 to £104.3m in 2016-17 – is allocated locally and is largely used for CPD for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
In each region, it is paid out either to NHS trusts, to universities, or sometimes a combination of both.
Nursing Times understands LETBs are passing on the cuts in different ways, but that some regions are expecting funding reductions for CPD of up to 40%.
In other places indications of how the funding reduction will affect allocations to universities and employers has still not been provided, leading to expectations of further delays.
“We have serious concerns about the speed, size and late notification of these cuts”
Council of Deans
Universities said they had “serious concerns” about the “speed, size and late notification of these cuts”, which apply to funding due to be available from September.
Meanwhile, Nursing Times has been told from a source within a LETB that there were concerns these particular funding reductions had not been shared publically.
In the Kent, Surrey and Sussex area, Nursing Times understands the LETB is reducing CPD money it gives to local universities, but will maintain the same level of funding for providers.
A source at HEE Kent, Surrey and Sussex said: “The biggest concern is that trusts and the public only hear about the undergraduate changes to bursaries, and the cuts to all other areas of funding are not being shared publically.”
In the Thames Valley area, CPD budgets for local trusts – which then spend it with education providers – will be reduced, with expectations that the region could see up to 40% cuts.
Professor June Girvin, of Oxford Brookes University, which provides CPD courses for local nurses, said: “There is research which says the better qualified the nurses are, the better the outcomes for patients. Reducing CPD funding flies in the face of that and the things we are starting to understand about high quality nursing interventions and patient outcomes.”
“In addition to this, good CPD opportunities are often a way of recruiting and retaining nurses and other health care professionals. At a time when trusts are so short of nurses and other qualified staff, it’s difficult to see how the choice to cut the CPD budgets has been made,” she said.
Meanwhile, HEE East of England has delayed its CPD funding allocation to trusts in the region, leaving employers still waiting for final details.
Board papers at one of the affected trusts – Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust – revealed some “courses cannot be supported at present and has been placed on the corporate risk register”.
In a statement provided to Nursing Times, the trust said it was “absolutely committed” to ensuring its nurses, midwives and AHPs have access to the relevant training needed to carry out their role.
Deirdre Fowler, the trust’s director of nursing, midwifery and quality, said: “We will continue with our internal training programme, and ensure that our nurses, midwives and AHPs have access to the necessary teaching to keep their competencies up to date.
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“The CPD money is to support staff taking on additional training, and the trust board is currently exploring ways in which we can support staff who wish to take on this,” she said.
A spokesman for Anglia Ruskin University, one of the affected education providers in the region, said: “We are approaching completion of discussions related to the CPD contract funding for 2016-17 and therefore are planning our provision based on this. We anticipate final written confirmation by the end of June.”
A spokesman for the Council of Deans of Health, which represents universities, said: “We have serious concerns about the speed, size and late notification of these cuts, which vary across regions and between institutions, and are due to publish an assessment of the likely impact in the coming weeks.
“If vital training for nurses, midwives and AHPs is dramatically cut, the main impact will be on the NHS workforce and delivery of care,” he said.
“There seems little strategic oversight of these decisions and it’s difficult to see how the NHS will deliver its ambitious plans for service and workforce transformation without supporting the professions that make up more than 75% of the health professional workforce,” he added.
A spokeswoman for HEE noted that its budget had been frozen by the government at the same cash value as the year before.
“It has allowed us to continue funding of additional clinical undergraduates, particularly nurses, and the increased costs of tuition fees for medical students, as we prioritise spending to meet patient need,” she said.
“The cuts to all other areas of funding are not being shared publically”
HEE Kent, Surrey and Sussex
Workforce development spending was subject to local decision making, she added.
She said HEE’s ongoing local workforce development spending was allowing investment in a number of priority initiatives.
These included support for older people’s nursing fellowships, programmes to support implementation of the Dementia Core Skills Education and Training Framework, end of life care, nurse prescribing, increases in the bands 1-4/apprenticeship budget and a range of developments in primary care.