Training for healthcare assistants and continuing professional development for nurses will be key focuses for a major new review of healthcare education standards in England, its chair has told Nursing Times.
The Shape of Caring review was set up in May by Health Education England and the Nursing and Midwifery Council to examine standards of pre- and post-registration nurse education and training. It will also consider the training of healthcare assistants.
“At the moment CPD has had a 40 watt bulb shining on it and I want to put it under the spotlight”
Lord Willis of Knaresborough, the peer charged with leading the review, said it will look at the future needs of nursing staff, rather than being a “witch hunt” for what is wrong with the current system.
Speaking for the first time since his appointment, Lord Willis said he was not intending to repeat the work of recent, similar investigations – but would instead look forward at what the nursing workforce and the NHS needed in the future.
Lord Willis, who described himself as an “unashamed friend” of nursing, said his review would consolidate four reports published last year, including those by Robert Francis QC and Camilla Cavendish, and suggest practical ways to implement their recommendations.
“This is not about a witch hunt of current standards and practices, nor is it an attempt to re-run the plethora of reports and recommendations that have come out over the last five years,” said the former Liberal Democrat MP and head teacher.
“What it is an attempt to do is search out the needs of the profession over the next five, 10 or 15 years, and to ask the question ‘is our current training appropriate?” he told Nursing Times.
This is not the first time Lord Willis has examined nursing education. He led a review of pre-registration training in 2012, which was commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing.
Lord Phil Willis
However, he said a key focus of the new review would be continuing professional development. He said NHS organisations did not take CPD as seriously as they should, adding that in future employers could be forced to focus on it more through the introduction of new systems for appraisal and revalidation.
“This whole business of preceptorship and continuing professional development is one that really does need a radical look at, because I haven’t met anybody who says it is satisfactory,” he said.
“At the moment CPD has had a 40 watt bulb shining on it and I want to put it under the spotlight,” he said.
There needs to be a “continuous programme” of education and training for nursing staff.
“That is a challenge for organisations, but one we can’t simply say because we haven’t got the resource we shouldn’t do this,” he told Nursing Times.
The peer said Health Education England and NHS England needed to use their powers to “drive the system” and, if necessary, universities that failed to meet quality standards should be refused funding.
“Health Education England, when it is allocating university places, has really got to be able to say we are looking for the highest quality and if you can’t meet our quality standards you won’t get the funding,” he said.
But he said he was more concerned about the practical placements that students take within hospitals and increasingly in other care settings.
“How do you ensure a consistency of standards within a variable setting so the student going into a care home gets the same quality of training as in an A&E? That’s a real challenge, and we don’t have an answer yet.”
“This is not about re-writing the standards for pre-education nursing”
But Lord Willis described healthcare assistants as the “biggest headache” for his review.
“They are doing fundamental jobs and every time I meet them and see what they are doing and how important they are, I come back really quite angered that they have no proper training and are taken for granted in a lot of ways,” he said.
“If this review is really going to have merit it has got to capture their needs,” he added.
A call for evidence will be launched at the end of July with a final report expected in February.
Speaking alongside Lord Willis at a meeting at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference last week, NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said the review was “fundamentally about building on what’s good” and not trying to “fix stuff that’s not broken”.
“This is not about re-writing the standards for pre-education nursing,” she said.