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What the knowledge and skills framework can do for you

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Kicking off's new series of articles from our partners at NHS Employers, KSF project manager Bill McMillan explains how nurses can apply the framework to improving health

The NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) is a key part of the Agenda for Change pay system – and therefore a part of your employment contract if you are a nurse working in the NHS. It is designed to ensure a fair and clearer system for pay and career progression. The KSF is essentially about helping staff to learn at work so that they can continue to deliver high quality services for patients and the public.

The framework supports personal development and career progression, linked to annual development reviews and personal development plans. It is designed to enable staff to progress and develop according to set guidelines, and enables jobs to be planned around patient needs, which in turn improves overall productivity, patient satisfaction and staff morale.

KSF post outlines describe the knowledge and skills that need to be applied to different posts within the NHS, while annual personal development reviews provide every member of staff with the opportunity to discuss how they have applied their knowledge and skills and to identify their learning and development needs.

Staff should be supported to develop in their posts and given opportunities to do so. The framework is also the mechanism through which pay progression operates. There are two pay 'gateways' in each pay band. By demonstrating that they can effectively apply the knowledge and skills required in their work, staff progress through the gateways up the pay scale.

So how does this apply to you as a nurse? Every member of staff on Agenda for Change terms and conditions, including nurses, should have a KSF post outline. This describes the knowledge and skills anyone employed in a particular job should be applying. Importantly, KSF outlines focus on the post and not the individual; they should outline clearly the competencies required to hold a particular post. You can relate this outline to your own skills and experiences as a nurse, which is particularly useful when you are looking to progress to a higher level.

As part of the KSF’s development review process, as a nurse you should be having a personal development review (PDR) on an annual basis. This is where you demonstrate your application of the required knowledge and skills for your post, as set out in your post outline. You will also discuss with your reviewer any future development needs and how these should be addressed so that you continue to progress. This should form the basis of your personal development plan.

The personal development review documentation and personal development plans should be recorded – often this will be on the electronic version of the KSF, known as e-KSF, which is a free web-based tool available to all NHS staff and reviewers. It is specifically designed to run and monitor the KSF. Through the e-KSF you can track every stage of your development as you progress in your career as a nurse.

For nurses and all Agenda for Change staff, therefore, the KSF offers a structured framework in which to map your competencies, outline areas for personal development and set a plan for progression in accordance with the indicators and competencies outlined in your post outline.

Nurse managers should use the KSF to support their staff and create a culture of continual learning and development. You should use the PDR process as a means of identifying both development need and potential within your staff and ensure employees are continuing to expand upon their skill set, develop their competencies and apply their knowledge and skills for the benefit of patients and clients.

The KSF is an important tool for both staff and their managers to achieve personal and organisational priorities. A clearer and more transparent development process means that individuals are able to take a high level of responsibility for their own career progression. The framework also enables a more focused and efficient relationship between employees and their managers.

Employees are therefore encouraged and supported, through the KSF, to fulfil their potential and continue to progress throughout their careers. This in turn will result in highly competent, well-motivated staff who excel in providing the very highest levels of patient care.

In that way the NHS will continue to apply knowledge to improve health.

Editor’s note: Any nurse who is unhappy with their progress under the KSF, should speak to their management lead for KSF at their trust/organisation, or their trade union

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