A health minister has said that continuing professional development (CPD) funding is the “responsibility of employers”, but has also suggested the government arm’s-length body Health Education England should have a greater say on how ongoing training is prioritised.
In a mandate document published last month laying out the priorities for HEE for 2017-18, new health minister Steve Barclay said CPD could play a “key” role in supporting a “flexible workforce” that can “quickly adapt to meet the changing needs of the NHS”.
“If the taxpayer is paying [for CPD] and the employer is releasing time shouldn’t the priorities of the NHS be taken into account too?”
The minister claimed clinicians currently choose their own learning opportunities, based on their personal interests. But he questioned whether ongoing learning should be more closely aligned to national priorities.
“If the taxpayer is paying and the employer is releasing time shouldn’t the priorities of the NHS be taken into account too?,” he said in the document, called Department of Health and Social Care mandate to Health Education England, April 2017 to March 2018.
“CPD funding is the responsibility of the employer but through this mandate I will ask HEE to consider how its programmes can provide opportunities to support employers and clinicians in driving improvements and innovation for the benefit of patients,” he added in the introduction to the document, which was delayed in its publication by almost a year.
National funding for nursing and midwifery CPD has been cut by around 60% by HEE over the past two years, from £205m in 2015-16 to £83.49m in 2017-18.
There have been continuous warnings by universities, employers, the Royal College of Nursing and, more recently, the Nursing and Midwifery Council that the cuts are contributing to nurses leaving the profession.
The Commons’ health select committee last week published a major report follow its inquiry into the nursing workforce, which called for CPD cuts to be reversed.
It said a “clear plan” by HEE was required outlining how it would increase budgets and said that money allocated to trusts should be ringfenced for CPD for nurses, while specific funding should be allocated to community nurses.
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Responding to the mandate document, an HEE spokeswoman said the arms-length body currently spends more than £350m every year on workforce development.
”Alongside this there is the investment by other national bodies on specific service areas, the investment of employers, and of staff members themselves on CPD,” she said.
”However, there is growing recognition that we need to seek to align all this investment from across the system to better develop the workforce to deliver improvements in patient care,” she added.