Training of nurses, midwives and other health professionals is undervalued in the health service and the NHS culture does not adequately support their learning and development. Reports by the Audit Commission and the National Audit Office make it clear that there must be changes if the commitments in the ten year NHS plan are to be met.The Audit Commission found that one third of staff had not agreed training needs with their managers in the last 12 months and that some NHS trusts spend five times as much as others on training per healthcare staff member. The Commission also found that in a minority of trusts, over a quarter of the post-qualification nurse training places are not being used. The Commission report ‘Hidden Talents’ recommends that NHS trusts should look closely at the implications of staff training and review how much they spend on different forms of training and development.
The National Audit Office report reviews the training of newcomers to the profession. It highlights the importance of educating and training increased numbers of nursing, midwifery and other health professional students as a key way of overcoming the current serious shortage of such staff in the NHS.
The NHS Plan proposes a number of measures to overcome the shortage of healthcare staff of which a fundamental one was a large increase in the number of training places. There are expected to be an additional 5500 nurses and 4450 therapists and other health professionals entering training each year by 2004. The report ‘Educating and Training the Future Health Professional Workforce’ recommends that the skills of workforce planners must be improved and that good practice on reducing student drop should be shared more widely. It also advocates closer working with the 73 higher education institutions contracted by the NHS to provide degree, diploma, and professional qualification courses.