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New set of CPD principles launched by NHS staff representatives

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Continuing professional development should be each nurse’s responsibility but be “made possible and supported” by their employer, according to new guidance designed to drive forward training.

Professional bodies and unions have launched a new set of principles for continuing professional development (CPD) and lifelong learning in the health and social care workforce.

A working group comprised of organisations from across a range of health and social care sectors, including the Royal College of Nursing, has launched a new publication outlining a set of principles for staff and employers among the nursing workforce.

The document follows the publication last week of the new NHS Long Term Plan, in which health service leaders said they “expect” to increase investment in CPD over the next five years, as part of efforts to retain nurses and other current health service staff.

The plan said that it expected more funding to be committed to CPD and career development for nurses and other NHS staff following this year’s upcoming government spending review, in the wake of previous cuts stretching back to 2015.

The CPD principles, published today, are designed to guide both individuals and employers to create a culture of continuous improvement, workforce development and improve outcomes for service users, said those behind the initiative.

They said they also recognised that those working in health and social care settings operated in a “changing, challenging and complex environment” and added that practising safely and effectively, now and in the future, was essential. The five principles state that CPD and lifelong learning should:

  • Be each person’s responsibility and be made possible and supported by your employer
  • Benefit the service users
  • Improve the quality of service delivery
  • Be balanced and relevant to each person’s area of practice or employment
  • Be recorded and show the effect on each person’s area of practice

The publication unpacks each principle and notes what is expected from individuals, the employers and the wider system.

In terms of the first principle listed in reference to responsibility, the publication explains that individuals should be responsible for regularly planning, prioritising, carrying out, applying and reflecting on CPD and lifelong learning.

“Nurses are at the forefront of innovation, and nursing and health care staff should all have the chance to further their careers”

Gill Coverdale

For employers, it states that they have the responsibility to make sure staff are safe, up to date with current practices and can meet the needs of service users – in line with their professional standards. It also calls for employers to provide fair access to time, study leave and funding, so staff can plan, carry out and think about the outcomes of learning.

For its second principle, which focuses on benefitting service users, the publication claims that the individuals’ learning should develop new knowledge and skills, add to existing skills, and provide opportunities to initiate and reinforce best practice.

Also under this principle, the document states that employers are responsible for identifying the needs of service users to guide how relevant staff’s learning is.

The publication goes on to highlight the third principle as learning for improving the quality of service delivery. For individuals among the workforce, it states: “Your learning and the outcomes of your learning improve the quality of your service delivery and reduce risk. You identify opportunities to learn from and share learning with others”.

It continues by stating that employers should “encourage a culture of learning” from experience with positive outcomes and in situations that don’t go so well.

The fourth principle, which states CPD and lifelong learning should be balanced and relevant to each person’s area of practice or employment, highlights that learning should include activities across health and social care, learning and education, leadership and evidence, and research and development.

The publication also notes that employers must recognise and support learning across those four areas.

“These principles come at an important time, as CPD budgets have been cut 80% in the last two years”

Gill Coverdale

In the final principle mentioned, it explains how CPD and lifelong learning should be recorded. The publication adds that the individual is responsible for keeping a record of their learning that demonstrates: what they learnt, how it adds to or develops their area of practice, and the effect on service users or service delivery.

In this section, the principle calls on employers to provide time, resources and opportunities to allow its staff to record and think about the outcomes of learning.

Gill Coverdale, professional lead for education at the RCN, said it had worked with a “wide range of professional organisations to develop these principles that reflect the multidisciplinary approach of modern health care”.

“Nurses are at the forefront of innovation, and nursing and health care staff should all have the chance to further their careers and develop ground breaking care models and treatments for the benefit of patients,” she added.

Ms Coverdale said the principles will “help develop the knowledge, skills and competencies that lead to an effective workforce prepared to deliver high quality care”.

“These principles come at an important time, as CPD budgets have been cut 80% in the last two years,” she said. “As demand rises and patient needs change, it is vital the government invests in developing our healthcare workforce to meet the challenges of the future.” 

Will Broughton, director of professional standards for the College of Paramedics and chair of the working group, said: “We believe that the health and social care workforce should have the opportunity to undertake CPD activity and these five principles clearly illustrate how developing new knowledge, skills and evidence-based working will produce an effective workforce, who are well-equipped and prepared to deliver high quality services.

“It is our intention to evaluate the impact of the principles next year ahead of a review in January 2021,” he said. “We welcome feedback from people working across the health and social care workforce that will contribute to further versions of this document.”

Organisations involved in drawing up the principles

The Interprofessional CPD and Lifelong Learning UK Working Group is made up of: Allied Health Professions Federation Scotland, Association of Clinical Scientists, British Association of Art Therapists, British Association of Music Therapy, British and Irish Orthoptic Society, British Dietetic Association, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, College of Operating Department Practitioners, College of Paramedics, Institute of Biomedical Science, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Occupational Therapists, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists, British Psychological Society, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Society and College of Radiographers, Unison and Unite.

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