The quality and safety of health and social care is heavily dependent on investment in the continuing education of existing staff.
Not only do staff need to stay up-to-date in their training, but they must also be given opportunities to develop new skills, embrace new technologies and to learn to support the professionals of tomorrow if the NHS is to achieve service transformation of the order outlined in the Five Year Forward View.
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Investment in workforce development also bolsters staff recruitment, satisfaction and retention, which are all vital in the current environment.
The healthcare workforce of the future is here and now and we must value its impact on good quality care by investing in staff development - whether it is about learning a new skill or developing knowledge in an area of specialism.
The need for continuing professional development is therefore abundantly clear.
Yet for nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions, we seem to be witnessing a policy disconnect in England of staggering proportions.
In 2016 the Council of Deans of Health published a document exposing cuts to local CPD budgets of up to 45%, largely the result of a decision taken at national level by Health Education England to reduce workforce development funding by 49%. These cuts were frequently accompanied by late notification of commissioning decisions, making local education planning extremely difficult.
Unfortunately, it looks like there won’t be better news this year.
Once again, many universities have reported delays to contract schedules for post-registration education and decreased local commissions.
”The Council of Deans has heard of more than one case where established courses look likely to be neither financially nor educationally viable in 2017/18”
Specialist education for health visiting, district, practice, school and occupational health nursing roles seems to be facing considerable funding uncertainty, despite being critical for the delivery of care closer to home.
The Council of Deans has heard of more than one case where established courses in these subjects look likely to be neither financially nor educationally viable in 2017/18.
We have called on the government to address this disconnect between strategic priorities and actual levels of investment. We would like to see clear strategies for nurse, midwife and allied health profession CPD nationally and locally.
This is not something the government and providers can, or should, do alone. Universities are central to these discussions.
”We would like to see clear strategies for nurse, midwife and allied health profession CPD nationally and locally”
It may also be necessary for universities and employers to take a more collaborative approach over time through joint commissioning and more specialised course provision to benefit from greater economies of scale and to create viable cohorts.
As a UK-wide organisation the Council of Deans knows that cuts and uncertainty on this scale are not being experienced across all four nations in the same way.
In Wales, there are budgetary challenges but also good examples of universities and health boards working together to plan for investment in and provision of post-registration education.
NHS Education for Scotland has made post-registration education a focus of its work this year and is in the process of mapping current provision to move towards more systematic and needs-based commissioning decisions.
Ultimately, employers are responsible for ensuring they have staff with the right skills to care for their patients.
Increased national investment in well-designed and strategically commissioned programmes will support patient safety and help enable the service transformation that is so badly needed in health and social care.
Dr Katerina Kolyva, executive director, Council of Deans of Health