Fewer nurses are expected to be trained in specialist and advanced roles in the NHS over the coming years due to the “decimation” of professional development funding, a group of MPs has been warned during an inquiry into nursing workforce shortages.
The reduction in the NHS national budget for continuing professional development training – which has been more than halved in the space of two years – is also “the biggest single factor” causing nurses to leave their jobs, the MPs were told during a hearing this week.
“I am talking to directors of nursing all the time who are trying to get their nurses on an intensive care programme”
The chief executives of the Royal College of Nursing and the body representing NHS employers both laid out their concerns over the funding reductions while giving evidence to the Commons’ health select committee on Tuesday.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, Health Education England has reduced the total budget that it passes to trusts for “workforce development” funding for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals by 60% – from £205m in 2015 to £83.49m in 2017.
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RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said this level of funding cut would not only make it more difficult for nurses to maintain their skills, but would also stop some from being able to train for more advanced roles.
“That isn’t only nurses doing a programme to keep up to date, this is training for district nursing, for health visiting, for advanced practice and specialist nurses,” she told the MPs.
“I find it very sad that…when we are so desperate for nurses we are taking out the funding for them to continue to develop”
“I am talking to directors of nursing all the time who are trying to get their nurses on an intensive care programme. Or community providers needing someone to do the district nursing programme. And of course there is no money; it has been pretty much decimated,” she said.
“So I think we might well see by default a reduction in those specialist nurses and advanced practitioners. Unless we can find a different way of doing that [funding the training],” she added.
The RCN was exploring whether other types of funding – such as the apprenticeship levy – could be used to pay for CPD in the future, she said.
“But I find it very sad that…when we are so desperate for nurses, we are taking out the funding for them to continue to develop,” she added.
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NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer, who has made similar warnings before, said he echoed Ms Davies’ concerns about CPD budget cuts.
He said “disinvestment” in HEE and the resulting loss of money from national ongoing training budgets for nurses “is, I think, the biggest single factor now in terms of poor rates of retention in the NHS”.
He called for action by the government to address the cuts, warning that the reductions would also have a detrimental effect on the “psychological contract” the NHS has with nurses.
“We do believe that the CPD budget is the next fundamental thing there needs to be national action on,” he said.
“That level of disinvestment that limits the opportunities for people – [but] these aren’t just the opportunities to advance practice, this is a standard way of investing in the training of people to carry out the jobs they need to carry out,” he said.
“It also has a symbolic value,” he said. ”There may be lots of nurses who don’t want to access CPD but would like to think they could do if they needed to one day.
“That level of reduction…is making big difference in terms of that kind of psychological contract we have with our workforce,” he added.
He said that while employers had a duty to support staff with mandatory CPD, it had become increasingly difficult to provide advanced training in particular.
HEE has previously denied that it has ever had a specific budget for CPD for the NHS and said its workforce development funding covers a range of investment.
It has also stated that employers themselves have primary responsibility for paying for CPD training but said it would “continue to invest in strategic workforce development in line with key service priorities, like cancer and mental health”.