The Chancellor Sajid Javid has announced that every nurse working in NHS hospitals, community settings and GP surgeries in England will have access to a personal training budget of more than £1,000 over three years to support their learning and development.
It’s part of the government’s pledge to secure a sustainable future for the NHS through the Long Term Plan, he said, and will help nurses advance their careers, develop new clinical skills and gain advance practice qualifications.
The announcement was made as part of the Spending Round, which sets departments’ budgets for the next financial year. The government hopes it’ll improve recruitment, retention and staff morale.
While the announcement is welcome, the RCN said it only addressed one cause of nurse shortages in the NHS, and that it failed to make up for previous cuts to CPD. The funding is a start, but more will be needed in the future to equip nursing staff with the skills and knowledge they need to help transform services for patients.
RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “After years of cutbacks, this announcement may start to put things right. Nurses will see it as an acknowledgement that the government sees investment in professional development as important.
“This will help to ensure every individual nurse can access the training they need to increase their skills and knowledge further – though it needs to be extended to all nursing staff, not just those in the NHS.
“It’s very disappointing, however, that the Chancellor has not heeded our call for immediate investment of at least £1bn into nurse higher education, in order to try to reverse the reduction in numbers of nursing students since the bursary was removed. Almost 1,000 fewer students have started degree courses since 2016, the last year the bursary was in place.
“Independent economic modelling for the College shows that this funding would be the fastest and most effective way to quickly increase the supply of nurses – including those who could help reverse the critical shortages in social care nursing.
“The government has completely missed the opportunity to significantly increase the number of nursing students in the 2020/21 academic year. Ministers now need to explain exactly how they plan to stem the current workforce crisis in nursing, with over 40,000 posts vacant in England alone.”
On social care, the Chancellor announced an extra £1.5bn for councils for next year. The RCN said this must be ring-fenced so that it can’t be diverted to any other priorities.
“Councils have lost 60p in every £1 of central government funding since 2010,” Dame Donna Kinnair added. “There will need to be significant cash increases every year from now to try to redress this huge funding gap.”