A third of nurses are having to use their own time and money to keep up to date with mandatory training because they cannot access it through the NHS, according to a survey by the Royal College of Nursing.
The survey found that 32 per cent of the 3,086 respondents had been unable to access mandatory post registration training over the past 12 months in areas such as health and safety procedures, child protection and basic life support.
As a result, 34 per cent said they were using annual leave to try and keep up to date and 39 per cent were self-funding their training in core areas including infection control and manual handling.
The most common reason given by nurses for being unable to do mandatory training was staff shortage and a lack of cover. Some respondents said even where training had been approved staff were often forced to cancel at short notice to cover shortages on wards.
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The RCN findings appear to represent a worsening of the situation since last year, when a Nursing Times survey of 2,500 nurses and healthcare assistants found a quarter were “strongly considering” spending their own money on training courses (news, page 1, 27 January 2009).
RCN executive director of nursing and service delivery Janet Davies said it was a “testament to the dedication” of some nurses that they were prepared to self fund or use their own time to update their practice.
But she added: “Many are simply unable to do this and staff should not be expected to. It is up to trusts and managers to ensure that staff are up to date and can access the training they need.”
The college claims the findings are a “red flag” indicator that the public sector spending squeeze is already starting to bite, as training has traditionally been an area vulnerable to cuts in times of economic pressure.
Ms Davies said: “We know from previous economic downturns that training is often the first place managers look when they need to start making cuts.”
Nursing Times successfully campaigned for protected time and resources for postgraduate nurse training in 2008, culminating in the pledge to reform the way training was funded in the NHS next stage review.