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Sheila McQueen: Cuts to CPD funding undermine the nursing workforce

Reduced financial support for continuing professional development (CPD) makes it harder to retain staff, and leaves nurses ill-equipped to improve services, says professor of nursing Sheila McQueen.
CPD_cuts-iStock.jpg

Reduced financial support for continuing professional development (CPD) makes it harder to retain staff, and leaves nurses ill-equipped to improve services, says professor of nursing Sheila McQueen

It is worrying that for 2016-17, Health Education Englands (HEE) funding for CPD has suffered significant cuts of up to 45%, with little discussion about the strategic plans for CPD at a national level.

The funding cuts to non-medical CPD will hinder the NHS workforces ability to meet the strategic transformation objectives of the Five Year Forward View. NHS Englands plan for the future of the health service requires greater investment in training for staff and the engagement of clinicians to enable them to deliver new models of care.

Previous policy initiatives, including the Willis Commission in 2012, recognised the importance of CPD in

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Reduced financial support for continuing professional development (CPD) makes it harder to retain staff, and leaves nurses ill-equipped to improve services, says professor of nursing Sheila McQueen


Health Education England’s funding of CPD has suffered significant cuts. Picture: iStock

It is worrying that for 2016-17, Health Education England’s (HEE) funding for CPD has suffered significant cuts of up to 45%, with little discussion about the strategic plans for CPD at a national level.

The funding cuts to non-medical CPD will hinder the NHS workforce’s ability to meet the strategic transformation objectives of the Five Year Forward View. NHS England’s plan for the future of the health service requires greater investment in training for staff and the engagement of clinicians to enable them to deliver new models of care.

Previous policy initiatives, including the Willis Commission in 2012, recognised the importance of CPD in retaining staff and inspiring them to deliver compassionate care for the whole of their careers. 

Despite commitments and investment in CPD there is little research to illustrate its impact, particularly in terms of improving practice. Has the lack of evidence demonstrating CPD’s role in improved patient care, practice and service development influenced the HEE decision to cut funding for commissioned CPD?

Essential to nursing 

In medical education, systematic reviews and meta-analyses have consistently demonstrated that participation in structured CPD improves the knowledge and practice behaviours of medics, but there is no evidence of improvement in patient outcomes. Yet CPD funding for medics has not suffered the same financial cuts as that for nursing and allied health professionals.

As services transform and patient needs change, CPD is essential to the future development of nursing, but also for maintaining the quality of care in services that are fundamental to the NHS now. Specialist training is required for staff to be able to deliver evidence-based care, and to support nurses to get research to the bedside – something that still takes too long.

CPD budgets for the non-medical health workforce are now insufficient to support the government’s vision to transform the workforce. For example, CPD funding was used to educate mentors and increase student placements in GP practices, with the aim of boosting the employment of newly qualified staff in these settings. Budget cuts are likely to have the opposite effect. 

Some nurses currently fund their CPD, and many do not receive supported study leave. However, if everyone must fund themselves, questions need to be answered. Will nurses receive study leave for all CPD activities, or only for learning that is required for service change? Will universities be able to provide the type of CPD required? Without funding, cohort sizes may shrink, making some courses not financially viable for the universities. What will this mean for revalidation, and professional and career development for individuals?

Personalised CPD

The nursing voice needs to be heard. If CPD does not take account of nurses’ individual and professional needs and aspirations, it is unlikely to fully engage commitment, or capitalise on their contribution to the NHS and patient care.

CPD increases job satisfaction and reduces attrition from the profession, yet there has been no discussion about what impact the loss of CPD funding will have on staff retention.

There are difficult questions to answer about the difference CPD makes to patient care, but while the current lack of research evidence should be addressed, it should not be an excuse for budget cuts. 

We need to know what is happening to our future development and how our CPD needs are to be met. It is essential that changes are debated by all the relevant organisations and professional regulatory bodies, and planned strategically with transparency for the entire health workforce.


About the author 

 

 

 

Sheila McQueen is professor of nursing and continuing professional education at the University of Sunderland

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