Defend the Knowledge and Skills Framework and promote the Equality Agenda

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2012 Health Care Service Group Conference
1 January 2012

Conference notes that the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) has had a turbulent integration within the NHS. There have been widespread variations regarding the success of the KSF across NHS employers.

Conference remains committed to the belief that KSF is an in invaluable tool in the NHS and used properly it is a method of ensuring adequate and equal opportunity across the workforce in relation to training and development, and that training, development and progression is not just for the privileged few as has been seen traditionally. KSF has enabled staff to be active participants within the process and this has continued to benefit the employee, employer, patient and the organisation as a whole.

Conference notes that the attacks on public services by the Tory-led Government are being felt throughout the NHS. As employers seek more and more ways to reduce costs, staff training is often an early casualty. This is at the very time when voluntary redundancy and unfilled job vacancies leave the remaining staff with heavier workloads and additional duties.

It is therefore imperative that equality issues and equality training are not sidelined at a time when their application is likely to become even more significant.

Conference reaffirms its belief that:

a) the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF), with its core dimension of equality and diversity, is a vital tool for developing both staff and health services in ways that meet the needs of all staff and service users;

b) although the KSF gives staff a contractual right to access learning and development opportunities at work, this is routinely denied to large sections of the workforce, notably the lowest paid.

Since the implementation of the simplified KSF guidance there has been a slight increase in the take up of KSF and whilst conference welcomes the new guidance document in allowing flexibility within trusts and local areas, we must not fall into the trap of employers being allowed to use this guidance against staff in diverting away from, changing or compromising existing good practice as this will only serve to further weaken the link between appraisals and KSF and progression.

Conference further notes UNISON’s recent members’ survey has shown that 13% of staff are still not receiving mandatory training and 45% have not received any form of non-mandatory training. There still remains a disproportionate impact on bands 1-4 in relation to lack of training with 57% of staff within these bands not receiving any training. This has had a particularly adverse effect on operational services staff such as ancillary and maintenance and administrative and clerical staff, who are heavily concentrated in these pay bands.

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1. support, promote and protect learning and career development opportunities for NHS staff, with particular emphasis on the KSF;

2. continue to survey members about their experiences of the KSF and use that research to hold NHS employers and all Governments across the UK to account;

3. continue the close working with the National KSF Group to support implementation and share best practice between the four UK countries;

4. continue to campaign for greater development opportunities for staff in pay bands 1- 4 whilst also seeking to influence the apprenticeships agenda to provide them with greater opportunities;

5. use the well-established processes of the UK countries to fully support, promote and protect learning and development opportunities for all staff within the NHS, with particular emphasis on the KSF;

6. build union organisation through the learning agenda through UNISON’s Learning and Organising Services and encourage branches to take part in projects such as Bridges to Learning where appropriate;

7. support branches in campaigning for funding and release time for training;

8. ensure that equality training is seen as essential and a priority throughout the NHS workforce.