Health Education England intends to freeze its national budget for continuing professional development training for nurses, despite its recent commitment to MPs that funding cuts would be reversed.
According to HEE plans approved last week, its national “workforce development” funding – which is largely used for CPD for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals – is expected to remain frozen at £83.5m this year.
“It is assumed that the workforce development budget will remain unchanged at £83.5 million”
HEE board papers
However, the workforce body said it would look to increase this area of funding later on in the year “if there are any opportunities identified” due to comments it made during a recent investigation into the nursing workforce by MPs.
In the past two years, HEE has cut its workforce development funding by over 60% – from £205m in 2015, to £83.49m in 2017 – leading to criticism from the profession, employers, universities and unions about lack of access to CPD and the risk to patient care.
But during a major review of the nursing workforce by MPs last year, HEE told the Commons’ health select committee it now intended to increase funding for nurses’ CPD.
When it published its report in January, the select committee called for the cuts to be reversed and said it wanted to see a “clear plan “from HEE for re-introducing the money.
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HEE met last week to approve its financial plans for 2018-19. In board papers discussed at the meeting, the body noted the Department of Health and Social Care had not yet confirmed how much money it would be allocating to HEE for the coming financial year.
But the workforce body said its plans were drawn up on the basis that the DHSC would set its 2018-19 budget at £4,248m, in line with previous government comments in 2015 that HEE would receive “flat cash” until 2019-20.
“We stand by our commitment to increase workforce development expenditure from the £83.5m”
It said it also expected to receive an additional £125m from the government for further “cost pressures” arising from initiatives including nursing associate training, as well as for “unavoidable” payment commitments, such as those for GP trainees.
“It is assumed that the workforce development budget will remain unchanged at £83.5m. However, given a commitment at the health select committee, if there are any opportunities identified in year then this will be re-directed towards increasing this expenditure,” said the board papers.
Nursing Times asked HEE why it had not budgeted for an increase in CPD funds for nurses in 2018-19 fro m the outset.
”We stand by our commitment to increase workforce development expenditure from the £83.5m and have several avenues we are pursuing to deliver this in-year. This is a priority for HEE and we are confident this can be achieved,” said an HEE spokeswoman.