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Workforce plan reinforces promise to reverse £85m CPD cuts

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Returning the £85m ripped out of career progression budgets for nurses in England has been revealed as a key part of the new national strategy for addressing nursing shortages.

The long-awaited Interim NHS People Plan backs up a personal commitment made by NHS England boss Simon Stevens in March this year at a nursing summit to restore “slashed” continuing professional development (CPD) funds.

“Funding pressures have forced some difficult decisions to be made”

Interim NHS People Plan 

In a chapter titled “tackling the nursing challenge”, the document admits developing the skills of existing nurses has suffered as a result of austerity measures, with national investment dropping from £205m in 2013-14 to £120m in 2018-19.

“Funding pressures have forced some difficult decisions to be made – we have invested less in developing our current people, so that we could invest more in training new staff,” said the blueprint, which was released today to further flesh out ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January.

At the same time, employers have been committing less cash locally to training their workforce “as pressures on NHS finances have grown”, it added.

The interim workforce plan (see PDF attached below) commits to exploring ways of increasing CPD investment “with the aim of achieving” a phased restoration over the next five years to “previous funding levels”.

The plan said: “Developing the skills of the existing workforce is necessary to enable our people to adapt to the changing demands of the health service and support them in having fulfilling careers. It is also faster and more cost effective than redesigning the workforce or recruiting more newly qualified staff.”

It reveals plans to “update” the current investment model but promises to retain a “mixed” approach with contributions from employers and Health Education England. 

patricia marquis

patricia marquis

Source: Gareth Harmer

RCN England director Patricia Marquis

“CPD and workforce development investment is, and must remain, a mixed model – with local employers investing in their people’s CPD as well as national investment from Health Education England to support workforce development and service transformation priorities,” said the plan.

“The current model needs updating to support local health systems to deliver the model of 21st century care in the NHS Long Term Plan,” it added.

However, more detailed plans are on hold until after the government’s next spending review later this year when money will be released for the education and training of health staff.

Health commentators welcomed the ambitions of the interim plan, developed by a team led by NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding, but warned they would be meaningless without the funding behind them.

“Many will reserve final judgement until funding levels and practical details are revealed”

Patricia Marquis

Director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, Patricia Marquis, said: “This document begins to tackle the real issues, but many will reserve final judgement until funding levels and practical details are revealed.”

While Nigel Edwards, chief executive of leading health think tank Nuffield Trust, added: “A good plan is a good start, but for this to be more than a piece of paper, it needs to be backed up with money and people.”

The interim workforce plan comes after Mr Stevens gave his “personal guarantee” to delegates of England CNO Ruth May’s annual conference earlier this year to reverse CPD cuts.

“You have my personal guarantee that we will go into bat, and we will get a restoration, phased over the next five years of the budgets we need for CPD,” said Mr Stevens during his keynote address.

The commitment to reinvesting in CPD is one part of the tactics laid out in the workforce plan to filling nursing shortages, which currently sit at around 40,000 in hospital and community health services.

The people plan aspires to increase the nursing workforce by more than 40,000 by 2024, with the proposed aim of reducing vacancy levels to 5% by 2028.


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