Health Education England is holding out an olive branch to NHS employers concerned about previous cuts to their budgets to upskill their nurses and midwives.
For the first time the government arms-length body is meeting requests from trusts to provide earlier confirmation of their “workforce development” allowances.
“We want to see CPD for nursing restored to £200m annually”
Dame Donna Kinnair
Calum Pallister, director of finance at HEE, has committed £50m of the money for this area for 2019-20 in advance to offer employers reassurance and allow extra time for planning.
The money is largely used for continuous professional development (CPD) training for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
A spokeswoman for HEE said it was unable to confirm what the total allocation to trusts for workforce development would be for the next financial year until it had its full funding allocation from the Department of Health and Social Care.
However, she added that the organisation had committed to increasing the proportion of its total budget for workforce development “as we understand the importance of investing in current workforce to assist with transformation and retention”.
It comes after HEE cut the workforce development budget by 60% from £205m to £83.49m in 2015.
“The early notice we are giving this year will provide greater certainty for the system”
Mr Pallister said: “Employers have been asking us for earlier confirmation of this money. We haven’t been able to commit in advance before in this way and that has not helped trusts with their planning.
“The early notice we are giving this year will provide greater certainty for the system, allowing employers time to plan properly how they are going to invest the money, making the best, most effective use of what we are providing to develop staff in priority areas that will bring most benefit to patients,” he added.
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However, Dame Professor Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the olive branch was not strong enough.
She said: “Nursing CPD budgets have been slashed in the last two years - the HEE workforce development budget has fallen by 60% which limits the ability of nurses to progress and take on leadership roles.”
Dame Donna said nursing was “falling behind” other professions including medicine and dentistry, which she claimed had seen their budgets “protected”.
“This £50 million spread across the entire workforce is simply not enough,” Dame Donna said. “We want to see CPD for nursing restored to £200m annually. As well as helping improve retention, keeping skills up-to-date and improving practice is vital for safe patient care.”
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, welcomed the investment.
He said it went some way to recovering the money lost though the cuts, which he claimed were a “consequence of real terms disinvestment at that time in HEE”.