Maintaining staff development helps organisations avoid costly redundancies and get best value from a more engaged workforce, says Caroline Waterfield

Training and development for staff has traditionally been one of the first areas to be cut, but more recent experience from NHS trusts in financial turnaround has shown that the slash and burn strategies to release immediate savings from training and learning budgets succeed only in disengaging staff in the short term and creating skills gaps in the medium and long term.

Well motivated staff are advocates and are important in attracting talent into the NHS

Ensuring that our workforce remains valued and motivated not only helps to retain skills and expertise in the organisation but also has implications for

how the NHS is perceived as an employer within the local community.

Well motivated staff are advocates and are important in attracting talent into the NHS for the future.

That said, investment should be strategically planned using a whole system approach.

It is also important that any investment meets the requirements that are needed to make changes in service delivery.

Well planned investment in training will enable employers to develop a flexible workforce to meet the challenges facing the health service, and help them to take advantage of the opportunities for improving patient care.

Evidence from several sources, including the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the Institute of Directors, shows that successful employers have taken a twin approach to dealing with the recession - avoiding costly redundancies and continuing to invest in training and learning for their workforce.

However, with training budgets under increased scrutiny it is important to be able to demonstrate improved and documented outcomes for the investment.

Free career development advice

The Health Learning and Skills Advice Line is a free resource for anyone working, or looking to work, in healthcare. It dovetails with the knowledge and skills framework appraisal process, and can provide advice for individuals and their managers on career pathways and goals, as well as specific information on local courses available once a training or learning need has been identified.

The advice line is specifically aimed at staff in Agenda for Change bands 1-4, as this group is not usually part of a professional body, and so their access to career planning and development can sometimes be limited.

● Health Learning and Skills Advice Line: 08000 150 850.

HR checklist for economic recovery

  • Start planning now, and aim to put in place a workforce strategy that takes a long term view of both immediate and upcoming challenges
  • Think staff engagement - be open and honest about the scale of the challenge, listen to staff and use the staff survey as starting point for understanding concerns within the organisation
  • Undertake a workforce review to gauge your likely staff turnover, scrutinise your vacancies and review your use of temporary staff. This will also identify opportunities for redeployment
  • Know the type of talent you need and then work out how to recruit and develop it. Access to and retention of the right staff is crucial to your ability to meet the challenges ahead
  • Harness effective partnership working, both nationally through the Social Partnership Forum, and at a local level. Councils, Jobcentre Plus, education institutions and community services can all benefit from understanding each other’s needs, and sharing learning
  • Use the levers already in the system - national contracts, the Knowledge and Skills Framework and the pension choice exercise all offer tools to drive productivity or opportunities to highlight the benefits of employment in the NHS

Maternity support workers: streamlining systems

From 2006-07, 14 trusts across England were involved in an NHS Employers programme to help release highly skilled midwives from administration and clerical, and minor clinical duties, by introducing the role of the maternity support worker.

Trusts carried out a simple analysis of midwifery activity per shift to identify blocks in the system and tasks which could be safely delegated to the maternity support worker.

Training and education packages were developed and the support workers took on a range of tasks, to release midwifery hours. Trusts reported an improved choice for women, improvement in staff satisfaction levels and savings of up to £65,000 in lost bed days over one year.


Leading the NHS Workforce Through to Recovery, NHS Employers 2009

Talent for tough times: how to identify, attract and retain the talent you need, NHS Employers 2009