Nurses could be missing out on vital training and development opportunities because NHS organisations are failing to use the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) scheme, according to exclusive Nursing Times research.
The KSF was set up as an integral part of the Agenda for Change pay system.
Nursing Times used the Freedom of Information Act to survey every NHS trust in England to find out whether they were using the KSF to provide staff with job outlines, appraisals and personal development plans.
Of those trusts that could provide information, the proportion of staff receiving a KSF outline was 79%, 59% had had an appraisal and 58% had a PDP.
The survey found that despite a missive last year from health minister Ann Keen urging all trusts to make KSF a board-level priority, 15% of respondents did not know how many of their staff had appraisals in the last year.
It also found that 17% of trusts did not know how many staff had received a PDP after appraisals and 12% had no information on whether staff had KSF outlines – which should accompany all NHS jobs.
A National Audit Office census last year showed that 54% of staff had received KSF outlines.
Nursing Times found evidence that foundation trusts were using their independent status to opt out of the KSF.
Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Stockport, Blackpool Fylde and Wyre and Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trusts have all abandoned the framework.
June Chandler, Unison national officer, criticised trusts opting out of the KSF, saying they may not improve quality in line with Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review of the NHS. She said: ‘It is a worrying trend. [The KSF] is part of their contractual obligation, they are failing their staff if they are saying that they are not going to do it.
‘They are missing a massive opportunity to use a tool which can allow them to develop. All of the priorities exercising the minds of boards is the quality agenda.
‘If they don’t address the basic skills and needs of staff and ensure that they are properly qualified to do, we have not got a chance of achieving that.’
However, Nick Grimshaw, Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre NHS Foundation Trust’s HR director, said that since the introduction of its own new training scheme in 2008, feedback from staff had been positive.
He said: ‘A decision was taken in early 2008 to change the appraisal system due to low take up rate of 27% and poor feedback from staff about the old appraisal system based on the KSF.
’ A new appraisal tool was developed in partnership with staff side…the feedback was that the new system was more robust and meaningful. The process was refined and repeated and this year 95% of staff received an appraisal…putting us in the top 20% nationally.’
The architect of the KSF and former Department of Health head of workforce Andrew Foster also told Nursing Times it was too bureaucratic.
He said: ‘What we have created is a bit of a monster, trying to cover everything instead of focusing on the issues that are really critical.’