Continuing professional development training is at risk of being reduced further this year due to a national funding cut of 20% by national workforce body Health Education England (HEE).
HEE has confirmed its budget for “workforce development” – which is largely used for CPD for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals – will be slashed from £104.3m to £83.49m in 2017-18.
“We will continue to invest in strategic workforce development in line with key service priorities”
This is the second consecutive year HEE has reduced this area of funding. In 2016-17, the budget was almost halved from £205m the year before, sparking an outcry from universities claiming the move would see patient care suffer.
It is unclear how far HEE’s local branches will now reduce their CPD funding to universities and NHS trusts this year.
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Nursing Times has learnt of at least two regions where reductions are being passed on. At one NHS trust in HEE’s London/Kent/Surrey/Sussex area CPD funding has been reduced by 30% for this year, after a 40% cut in 2016-17.
A nurse at the organisation, who asked not to be named, described the level of the cuts over the last year as “unprecedented” and “seriously compromising our ability to support our staff effectively in delivering patient care”.
“In addition the pace of reductions and the lack of communication across the system has not enabled us to begin to manage and develop sustainable solutions for the future,” they said.
“Universities can hold their nerve for a period of time, but not forever”
In HEE’s North of England area, an academic told Nursing Times that CPD funding for universities in the region this year has been “essentially cut completely apart from some small sums for the region’s priority areas of mentorship and non-medical prescribing”. This also followed a 40% reduction last year.
The Council of Deans of Health, which represents university nursing departments across the UK, has again raised concerns about post-registration training, warning that some CPD courses may need to be reviewed.
Dr Katerina Kolyva, executive director of the Council of Deans, said: “Universities can hold their nerve for a period of time, but not forever. If reductions continue and there aren’t alternative local arrangements, the pressure in universities will perhaps be to review courses.”
Nursing and Midwifery Council
She highlighted that research suggested “a well engaged professional is a much safer professional in healthcare”. Also, a series of major changes affecting nursing education over the coming years meant it was “not the time to cut CPD”, she said.
Growing numbers of different types of students on placements – such as nursing associates, student nurses and apprentices – required investment in mentoring, said Dr Kolyva.
In addition, new Nursing and Midwifery Council standards for nurse education designed to raise practise to a higher level meant staff needed additional training to support students.
She also highlighted that many people falsely believed the apprenticeship levy could be used to fund CPD in the future – but claimed this was not possible because the levy money could only be used for a qualification that allows a nurse to practise in a new role.
“The significant cut again to CPD funding this year can have nothing but a detrimental effect”
She said HEE must “reprioritise CPD” and recognise that, while new nurses needed to be educated, it was important to invest in the development of the existing workforce.
Leading community nursing organisation the Queen’s Nursing Institute echoed the concerns raised by the Council of Deans.
“The significant cut again to CPD funding this year can have nothing but a detrimental effect on patients, families and carers, because this will lead to fewer opportunities for nurses to develop essential skills,” said Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the QNI.
“Decisions will need to be made about the CPD programmes that are no longer provided and this will impact on the viability of programmes in universities, with the potential loss of the nurse tutors who support the CPD programmes,” she said.
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“Such a significant loss of knowledge and skills in the delivery of skills development programmes is a very challenging position to recover from in subsequent years,” she added.
A spokeswoman for HEE said it did not, and never has had, a specific funding pot earmarked for CPD for the NHS workforce.
“Our workforce development fund covers a broad range of investment based on local NHS priorities and some areas have used this funding to support specific CPD programmes in addition to employers’ own CPD primary responsibility,” she said.
“We will continue to invest in strategic workforce development in line with key service priorities, like cancer and mental health, to make sure that we have a workforce better equipped to deliver now and in the future, while ensuring the best value from every pound of public money we spend on education,” she added.