KSF and Learning in the NHS

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2010 Health Care Service Group Conference
18 April 2010

Conference notes that the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) is the custom-built development tool that supports career and pay progression for all NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts. As an integral part of Agenda for Change, the KSF gives staff a contractual right to access learning and development opportunities at work.

Conference recognises that the NHS has a deeply embedded learning culture within its clinical and related disciplines. However, there remain large sections of the NHS workforce, particularly those in pay bands 1-4, who are consistently excluded from learning opportunities. We still see large groups of our members who have never even had an appraisal or development review still stuck in unrewarding roles with little prospect of ever being able to develop their talents and skills that clearly do exist but are not sufficiently valued by the employer who all too frequently are only paying lip service to applying KSF equally.

Conference supports the government’s commitment to raising skills levels across all sectors of the UK workforce and particularly welcomes those designed to promote greater opportunities for staff in the lower pay bands.

Conference notes that progress on implementation of the KSF has been protracted. Staff Survey results for England in 2008 show only slight increases in the number of appraisals (64% in 2008 compared with 61% in 2007), and fieldwork by the National Audit Office (NAO) estimated that only 54% of staff had a development review in 2008.

In N. Ireland the KSF is central to its workforce strategy but progress has been delayed by reorganisation. There has been steady progress in Wales. However KSF implementation in Wales has ceased to be viewed as important. Statistics are not credible and PDRs are still confined to certain qualified clinical groups only. Effective monitoring needs to be clearly linked to performance management targets from which failing trusts and health boards can be identified and corrective action plans put in place. In Scotland, a decision to link KSF implementation to performance targets has seen a marked increase in its monitoring figures.

The NAO report NHS Pay Modernisation in England: Agenda for Change (Jan 2009) concluded that:- The potential of the KSF has not been realised by many trusts, yet effective use of the Framework is essential for maximising the benefits of Agenda for Change. In a series of recommended actions, the report called for a KSF champion at board level, training for managers, and sufficient time for staff to participate in the process. Also a recommendation to review and simplify the guidance for using KSF.

In response, the NHS Staff Council commissioned an independent review to analyse the barriers to implementation and identify practical solutions to ensure that the KSF is effectively implemented across the NHS. Whilst the review is in response to the NAO (England-only) report, the KSF is a UK-wide agreement and any outcomes will have implications for all four countries. A four-country input into the review is therefore crucial to the process.

Conference reaffirms its commitment to the KSF as a key driver to realising the benefits of Agenda for Change. Based on partnership, staff engagement and equality of access, the KSF describes the required knowledge and skills for every job role, enabling staff and services to be developed in tandem. There is a wealth of talent and experience and a real thirst to develop careers within our membership and we now need a different approach that maximises opportunities for all our membership, particularly our lowest paid members.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

i.continue to work closely with the National KSF Group to support implementation and share good practice between the four UK countries;

ii.ensure through the NHS Staff Council, that there is UK-wide involvement in the independent review process and its findings;

iii.campaign for greater development opportunities for staff in pay bands 1-4 and seek to influence the apprenticeships agenda to provide them with greater opportunities;

iv.use partnership machinery in each of the UK countries to support, promote and protect learning and career development opportunities for NHS staff, with particular emphasis on the KSF;

v.use the learning agenda to build union organisation – working with UNISON’s Learning & Organising Services to promote the role of Union Learning Reps;

vi. survey members about their experiences of the KSF and use that research to hold NHS employers and all the governments across the UK to account.