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Poor KSF update to be focus of independent review

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An independent review is to look at the reasons behind the poor uptake of the Knowledge and Skills Framework career development scheme in England, Nursing Times has learnt.

The review, commissioned by the NHS staff council, represents the latest effort to encourage use of the framework, which is part of Agenda for Change.

All staff working under the contract should have a KSF career outline accompanied by annual appraisals. But the KSF is still far from fully implemented across the NHS more than four years after it was launched in October 2004.

Unlike the rest of the UK, England decided to cease mandatory monitoring of the KSF’s use at the end of 2006. However, fieldwork carried out by the National Audit Office between August and September last year estimated that only 54% of staff in England had received a KSF development appraisal in 2008.

Latest figures from the NHS staff survey suggest a better picture – but only slightly. The results for 2008 suggest 64% of staff had a KSF appraisal that year, compared with 61% in 2007.

The staff council said it had decided to commission the new review of the framework following publication of the NAO’s findings in January, in the report NHS Pay Modernisation in England: Agenda for Change.

June Chandler, Unison national officer, said: ‘In response to the NAO report, the NHS staff council has decided to commission an independent review.’

She said the aim was to find ways to encourage more NHS organisations to adopt the KSF scheme. ‘It is about looking at the barriers that are out there,’ she told Nursing Times.

‘There are areas where there is good practice with the KSF working but there are other areas where there is resistance to it and there is a perception it is too bureaucratic,’ she added.

The review, which will cover England only, is scheduled to start in autumn and the NHS staff council hope it will completed by early 2010.

‘The process has recently begun in terms of inviting organisations to volunteer to do it,’ said Ms Chandler.

In the meantime unions will work with the Social Partnership Forum – comprising representatives of government, unions and employers – to continue to promote the KSF.

‘[The KSF] is an integral part of the Agenda for Change employment contract and we are ensuring it is high on the agenda of the Social Partnership Forum,’ said Ms Chandler.

The independent review is the latest in a number of attempts to kick-start implementation of the framework, including two re-launches and the Department of Health making repeated attempts to emphasise its importance.

Health minister Ann Keen wrote to NHS chief executives last July highlighting the ‘many positive outcomes from the implementation’.

Poor progress on the framework was again highlighted last week, this time in a report from the Commons’ public accounts committee, which referred to the NAO figures.

The committee report said full KSF implementation was crucial to achieving improvements in patient care and efficiency. It recommended that all trusts should ensure every member of staff has received a KSF annual review by 1 April 2010.

Edward Leigh, chair of the committee, said: ‘The KSF is supposed to generate better and more flexible working by staff, to the benefit of patients. But it has been re-launched twice and, by autumn 2008, nearly a half of staff had not been given the required annual knowledge and skills review.’

  • The picture for KSF uptake in the rest of the UK is mixed. Overall progress at 31 March 2009 showed that 96% of staff in Scotland had a KSF outline and 92% had received an appraisal.

In Wales 79% staff had been assigned a KSF outline but only 12% were recorded as having an annual appraisal under the framework.

The position in Northern Ireland is less obvious due to the recent merger of trusts there as part of NHS restructuring, which began in 2007. A baseline audit of the current KSF position is due to be undertaken soon.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • More nurses may engage in the process if it were made easier. As with most appraisal formats it is repetetive and laborious. Nurses are, in general, very busy trying to complete their allocated work and meet several deadlines simultaneously. This probably leads, in many cases to ksf not being priority. Make it easier, simple!

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  • I have been a staff nurse for 2 years . I have a basic knowledge of what the KSF is - but neither me nor my colleagues or my managers have ever spoken about it....the ward is just too busy and short staffed....... so no-one can be bothered with it here in Devon.

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