Cuts to continuing professional development funding in the NHS are both a “major issue” for the nursing workforce and “nonsense” at a time when news standards are being brought in to raise the level of nurses’ practice, an influential group of MPs has been warned.
As part of a Commons’ health select committee inquiry into nurse shortages, MPs were told once again this week of the negative impact that 60% cuts to CPD money in the past two years were having on staff.
“I cannot get my head round why we have had a 60% cut to CPD at a time when we are introducing new standards”
Investment in ongoing training for nurses was a key part of stopping them from leaving the workforce, said the chair of the Council of Deans of Health, which represents UK university nursing departments, and the chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Their comments echoed similar concerns raised by the head of the Royal College of Nursing and the chief executive of the body representing NHS employers last week, as reported by Nursing Times.
Yesterday, Council of Deans chair Professor Brian Webster-Henderson described the CPD cuts by Health Education England as “nonsense”. As previously reported, HEE reduced its fund for workforce development for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals from £205m in 2015 to £83.49m in 2017.
Professor Webster-Henderson said it was crucial to invest in training for the workforce in order to retain staff. This was particularly important due to new education standards being developed by the NMC and the need to ensure the existing workforce could also operate at this higher level, he said.
“Cuts to CPD are a major, major issue. That’s what I hear when I go around the UK”
“I cannot get my head round why we have had a 60% cut to CPD at a time when we are introducing new standards,” said Professor Webster-Henderson.
“This is not the time to be cutting CPD funding; it is the time to be investing in the workforce to make sure they also come up to those standards. It’s just a nonsense really,” he told the group of MPs.
Giving evidence at the same session, NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith warned that the reduction in funding in England for training nurses throughout their careers was contributing to them feeling undervalued.
She told the MPs that recent findings from an NMC survey about why more nurses were leaving the register had revealed working conditions were the main reason behind their decision.
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“That can encompass a lot of things – staffing levels, flexibility, pay, and that’s also about not investing in their future,” she said. “Cuts to CPD are a major, major issue. That’s what I hear when I go around the UK.”
“The nursing profession does not feel valued…So for them, they think, ‘I may as well go elsewhere and do something else’. And that’s tragic. That’s not what we need,” she said.
During an earlier inquiry session held last week, RCN chief executive Janet Davies warned that fewer nurses would be trained in specialist and advanced roles in the NHS over the coming years due to the “decimation” CPD funding.
NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer, who was also giving evidence last Tuesday, said the reduction in funding was the “biggest single factor now in terms of poor rates of retention in the NHS”.
HEE has previously denied that it has ever had a specific budget for CPD for the NHS and said its workforce development funding covers a range of investment.
It has also stated that employers themselves have primary responsibility for paying for CPD training, but said it would “continue to invest in strategic workforce development in line with key service priorities, like cancer and mental health”.