Skills passports have a lot to offer by streamlining the recruitment process and avoiding duplicated training

As part of the Modernising Nursing Careers initiative, Skills for Health ran a 12 month pilot in 2009-10, which found employers were keen on using skills passports to streamline recruitment while minimising duplication of statutory training and pre-employment checks.

A sample of nursing staff at seven NHS trusts tested the concept, which offers workers a secure online repository for details of their skills, qualifications and experience. Every time a new competency or qualification is acquired, it can be validated in the system by the employer or training provider. Employers can then check prospective employees’ credentials during the recruitment process.

The passport concept has already been implemented with some success in other sectors, such as catering and IT, but there had been less progress on a full blown, competency based passport that would work across the NHS, independent and voluntary health sectors throughout the UK.

The MNC initiative changed that, says Skills for Health project manager Sally-Ann Marciano. “The MNC coalition saw that a nationwide competence based passport could underpin the drive to modernise nursing careers by supporting new career structures and greater transferability of skills, while also helping employers develop a more flexible workforce,” she notes.

That recognition led to the creation of a strategy group to test a skills passport. The results were promising, with particular benefits envisaged for staff at the beginning of their career, and those who tend to switch employers often. However, it was the passport’s potential contribution to employers’ efficiency and productivity objectives that really stood out for the strategy group.

“The expectation had been that it would be of benefit mainly to staff but in fact it became clear that it also offered huge benefits for employers, especially in the context of quality, innovation, productivity and prevention and the drive to realise efficiency savings,” says Ms Marciano.

Training efficiencies

The impact was particularly significant to statutory and mandatory training activities, which cost NHS England an estimated £222m per year, according to the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency.

Ms Marciano adds: “Much of this arises from duplicate training carried out when employers take on new staff but are uncertain about their prior training record. A passport can provide verified evidence and could deliver substantial savings across the entire sector.”

The passport could also deliver savings by streamlining pre-employment checks, which cost money and can delay a new employee’s start - during which time agency or bank staff are typically used to fill the gap, at further cost to the employer.

The pilot has also focused on the passport’s contribution to effective workforce planning. Although current systems offer some indication of skills, qualifications and experience, the more comprehensive passport grants unprecedented visibility of the abilities of a team, regional or even national workforce, offering employers a powerful tool for planning.

The full benefits of a passport remain unexplored, but it could deliver UK wide savings of £390m a year (see table).

Case study

Cheshire and Merseyside Teaching PCT Collaborative is rolling out the skills passport scheme to 25 trusts in its region.

The project aims to develop the concept by adopting a common core skills training framework across the region, allowing organisations to recognise and accept others’ training.

The passport will be rolled out to 200 third-year pre-registration nursing students at Chester University, enabling them to undertake mandatory training before coming in to post.




£ estimates for UK health sector (NHS, independent, voluntary)
Reduce duplication of statutory and mandatory training£ 99.8m pa
Increase clinical training delivered£ 98.5m pa
Reduce time to hire (i.e. from vacancy authorised to start date) by 2 weeks£166.9m pa
Increase quality of pre-employment checks and reduce risk of litigation£ unquantifiable
Reduce pre-employment administration costs£ 24.8m pa
 £ 390.0 m pa

Source: Skills Profile