The director of nursing at an NHS regulatory body and a nurse peer have stressed more funding for continuing professional development (CPD) is needed to help stop nurses from leaving their jobs – and also changes to nurse wage rises.
In the past two years, national budgets for CPD have been cut by over 60% by workforce body Health Education England, from £205m in 2015 to £83.49m in 2017.
“Not being able to have access to that [CPD] training is a problem for retaining staff”
At the chief nursing officer for England’s summit in Liverpool this week, NHS Improvement executive director of nursing Ruth May told a group of England’s most senior nurses that problems with CPD funding were widespread and that “we need collectively, with HEE, to find a way forward”.
Dr May, who is also deputy chief nursing officer for England, warned that lack of access to CPD was contributing to difficulties in retaining staff. “Everywhere I go…people keep telling us about the CPD - about the issues of the CPD funding,” she said.
“However you call it, whatever the definition, when you are a registered nurse wanting to do your community care training or intensive care training, not being able to do that and have access to that training is a problem for retaining staff,” she said.
Her comments followed those made by Baroness Mary Watkins earlier on at the event, who said the nursing workforce in England was being “underinvested in”.
“Where is the CPD money? Where is the opportunity?,” said Baroness Watkins, to a round of applause from delegates at the conference on Wednesday.
“We need to empower nurses to use their skill, and ensure we pay to help them gain qualifications”
She noted nurses were treated differently to medical colleagues, who often had all their post-registration training paid for, and urged the profession to raise the issue.
“We need to empower nurses to use their skill, and ensure we pay to help them gain qualifications,” said Baroness Watkins, before she went on to outline the work of the recently launched global Nursing Now campaign.
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“We have brilliant examples that chief nursing officers, like [England CNO] Jane [Cummings] have supported in the past, with nurses being paid to learn how to subscribe, to get advanced cognitive behaviour therapy education, to learn more about good health education. And we now need to invest very much in helping nurses to prevent non- communicable diseases,” she added.
In addition, Dr May said she hoped any forthcoming boost to nurse pay would be high enough level that would improve staff retention.
“The seven-year pay freeze, has impacted upon retention of registered nurses, and our healthcare workers as well”
“In my view, the seven-year pay freeze, has impacted upon retention of registered nurses, and our healthcare workers as well,” she said.
“So I am pleased we are having that movement and I am hoping that movement will be enough, so we can have a positive impact on retention,” she told the audience.
Ministers announced last year that there would be an end to the 1% cap on annual NHS wage rises that was due to be in place until 2020.
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However, they later confirmed that any increase would need to be tied to contract changes for nurses and all other NHS staff working under the Agenda for Change pay system, potentially as part of a multi-year deal.
The NHS pay review body is currently assessing evidence from employers, unions and ministers before it recommends a level of pay rise, while talks between unions and employers about contract changes are ongoing.
Last month, Royal College of Nursing chief executive Janet Davies said pay talks had reached a point where the Department of Health and Social Care believed nurse pay should increase but that the Treasury still needed convincing of a “meaningful” wage rise, significantly above 1%.