National funding for post-registration training for nurses is to be cut again this year, according to draft budget plans drawn up by government arm’s length body Health Education England.
Last year, HEE slashed its funding for “workforce development” by almost half, from £205m in 2015-16 to £104.3m in 2016-17.
“We will need to make some tough decisions around workforce development and its local application…during the course of this year”
Such funding is distributed by HEE’s local branches to employers and universities, and is mainly used for continuing professional development training for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
It was later revealed in a critical report by the Council of Deans of Health that all but one of the branches had, as a result, cut local continuing professional development bugets – by up to 45% in some areas.
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At an HEE board meeting last week, the body’s finance director laid out investment plans for the coming year, including further reductions to workforce development.
He also referred to planned cuts to HEE’s £35m “transformation fund”, used for creating new roles and for wider workforce changes needed to deliver the NHS England’s 44 sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).
HEE’s budget for this coming financial year, starting in April, has not yet been finalised, because it is still waiting on the Department of Health to confirm what money it will receive and what annual objectives it must meet.
“These cuts are difficult for universities but the most significant impact is on the NHS workforce and the NHS’s ability to meet its own objectives”
However, HEE was previously told at the end of 2015 that its yearly budget would be frozen until 2020, which is the basis on which it has formed its draft plans.
This means that, while HEE plans to increase funding for some areas of its work, such as the nursing associate pilots, others will come under pressure.
While the size of the proposed cuts to CPD funding were not made clear at the meeting last week, finance director Steve Clarke told the HEE board that “tough decisions” would need to be made.
“We will need to make some tough decisions around workforce development and its local application in the wider world to our LWABs [local workforce action boards] and other groups during the course of this year,” he said.
He later suggested that HEE needed to improve the way it explained its role in supporting the healthcare workforce by outlining its ability to provide expertise – and not just money.
Nursing and Midwifery Council
“Too often the assumption made, when we have conversations about how we are supporting the workforce, is that it is HEE’s responsibility – when it is, predominantly, I would argue, the employer’s into which we have some expertise and occasionally a bit of cash,” he told the board.
The Council of Deans of Health, which represents university nursing faculties, said it was “very concerned” about further cuts to CPD funding.
”These cuts are difficult for universities, but the most significant impact is on the NHS workforce and the NHS’s ability to meet its own objectives,” said Dr Katerina Kolyva, executive director of the Council of Deans.
”Nurses, midwives and allied health professionals make up around 75% of the NHS clinical workforce and, although policy attention is often focused on the future workforce, most of the health professionals that will be in the workforce in 20 years are already there,” she added.
Dr Kolyva said the Council of Deans would continue to put pressure on the government to recognise that, for the healthcare workforce to practisely safely, it would need support for professional development.
“We will continue to invest in strategic workforce development in line with key service priorities like cancer and mental health”
In a statement later provided to Nursing Times, HEE said it did not provide specific funding for CPD and that its workforce development money “covers a broad range of investment based on NHS priorities”, which sometimes included post-registration training.
“We will continue to invest in strategic workforce development in line with key service priorities, like cancer and mental health, to ensure that we have a workforce better equipped to deliver now and in the future, while ensuring the best value from every pound of public money we spend on education,” said Mr Clarke in the statement.
“Our final financial allocation for the next financial year has not been set and we are working with employers, commissioners and NHS partners nationally, through our regional teams and locally through LWABs to prioritise where we invest in 2017-18,” he said.
Last week at the chief nursing officer for England’s summit, leading nurses raised concerns about CPD funding reductions, with a senior advisor to the Nursing and Midwifery Council warning that such money must be regained to help deliver new education standards.