NHS Employers should plough greater resources into in work training schemes for the nursing workforce, the head of a major review of the profession’s education and training has said.

Lord Willis, the Liberal Democrat peer chairing the Shape of Caring review, told HSJ in an exclusive interview that continuing professional development would be a key focus of his work. This was necessary to ensure nurses had the skills necessary for the NHS of the future, he added.

The NHS has not taken CPD as seriously as it should, Lord Willis said. “At the moment CPD has had a 40 watt bulb shining on it and I want to put it under the spotlight,” he said.

“This whole business of preceptorship and continuing professional development is one that really does need a radical look at because I haven’t met anybody who says it is satisfactory.”

Lord Willis said he recognised that extra investment in training could be a “challenge for organisations”, but that “we can’t simply say [that] because we haven’t got the resource, we shouldn’t do this”.

“If you want to cut costs, the best way to do that is to actually invest in your people,” he said.

“That’s the way you get a better quality of healthcare.”

Lord Willis said his review aimed to consolidate previous reports, such as those by Robert Francis QC, and suggest ways to implement recommendations based on evidence.

The review would not be a “witch hunt of current standards and practices”, he added, “nor is it an attempt to re-run the plethora of reports and recommendations that have come out over the last five years”.

“What it is an attempt to do is search out the needs of the profession over the next five, 10 or 15 years, and to ask the question: is our current training appropriate?”

It will also examine the training of healthcare assistants, an area which Lord Willis described as his “biggest headache”.

“[HCAs] are doing fundamental jobs, and every time I meet them and see what they are doing and how important they are I come back really quite angered that they have no proper training and are taken for granted in a lot of ways.

“If this review is really going to have merit it has got to capture their needs.”

The review was established by Health Education England to ensure nurses and HCAs receive high quality education and training “which supports high quality patient care”.

A call for evidence will be launched at the end of July with a final report expected in February.