Whatever happened to the Knowledge and Skills Framework? This was a fantastic opportunity to have a system that ensured everyone across the NHS had access to training and professional development.
But it seems to have died a death in most trusts – despite being a key part of Agenda for Change.
The benefits are many and include improved knowledge and skills not only for nurses but also for everyone on bands one to nine within the NHS.
Collective feedback to the Department of Health from those trusts where the Knowledge and Skills Framework has been implemented has been overwhelmingly positive. The framework helps meet the demands of the organisation and enhances corporate, financial and clinical governance. It helps organisations meet their obligations in relation to diversity, corporate manslaughter and objectives such as reducing MRSA cross-infection and achieving 18-week waits.
The most interesting point is that it supports effective planning of training and development at an individual, team and organisation level. The Knowledge and Skills Framework therefore is central to the current and future service delivery in the NHS, leading to enhanced outcomes for patients and improved staff well-being and morale.
Ministers seem to be fully behind the Knowledge and Skills Framework. In June a letter from junior health minister Ann Keen to all trust chief executives stated: ‘The overall difference of the Knowledge and Skills Framework is not about what we want staff to do but what we can do for staff to gain the knowledge they require to fulfil their roles to the best of their ability.’
Improved knowledge equals better care. For example, every role within the NHS will have the six core competencies. One of these core competencies is ‘health, safety and security’, which helps people focus on infection control. Increasing awareness and knowledge will ultimately lead to reductions in rates of MRSA and Clostridium difficile.
As the Knowledge and Skills Framework is comparable across all NHS trusts, pockets of good practice will emerge and then become more widespread. The NHS is all about good practice and delivering the best care we can to our patients. This will help people to improve their knowledge and skills, and remain updated and competent at all times.
Training will be tailored to the needs of the staff within a trust, ensuring cost-effective use of training budgets. By investing time and effort in staff and their development, staff morale, recruitment and retention are improved and staff turnover reduced.
The KSF will help address employment and HR legislation, the Age Discrimination Act and equality and diversity requirements. It will also provide evidence about consistent, focused training for the NHS Litigation Authority audits, the Health and Safety Executive and other regulators. It develops governance across the organisation through providing clear information on individual roles, responsibilities and development.
So why are nurses not asking their trusts when they are going to implement it? It is everyone’s right to have a full job outline incorporating the six core competencies and some specific dimensions for their role. From these outlines competencies will be set, as agreed under Agenda for Change in 2004. Why are nurses not demanding the knowledge and skills they need to fulfil their roles?
Some trusts are introducing watered-down versions, a mere rehash of the performance development review process. Yet I know from experience that, when implemented correctly, Knowledge and Skills Frameworkis one of the best things that has happened to the NHS and nurses for years.
Nurses, it is time we stood together and insisted that the Knowledge and Skills Framework is implemented in every hospital, PCT and anywhere with the NHS logo, that everyone has a job outline that accurately reflects the role they perform.
Most of all, it is time we demanded the knowledge and skills we require for the ever- changing roles we face in the modern NHS.
Laura-Lee Leatherbarrow is Knowledge and Skills Framework Nursing Competency Lead at The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital Trust
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