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The Future of: CPD For Nurses

In the UK, spending on nurse training is 60% lower than other OECD countries. This is partly because of budget cuts and a lack of sustainable training; how will this change in future?

A nurse's stethoscope

CPD is the process whereby nursing professionals learn and develop in an ongoing manner. It starts from their initial qualification achievements. It then continues throughout their professional life to maintain and improve their competence and expertise.

There have been reductions to CPD funding, and changes to how nursing CPD is perceived. Therefore, we want to investigate how CPD for nurses is evolving. If you’re a CPD professional in the nursing industry, read on. Feel free to comment below about any changes you’ve seen that we haven’t already mentioned.

A doctor's hands in white hospital gloves holds fake money

CPD Budgets for Nurses in Future

Even before the pandemic, nurses were still experiencing huge roadblocks to their healthy progress. In 2015-16, CPD funding for UK nurses was £205 million a year. This was cut to £83.5 million in 2018/19, but it then slightly increased to £84 million in 2019/20. The initial drop was due to Health Education England budget cuts.

However, £150 million has now been made available for registered nurses and allied health professionals (AHPs) over the next 3 consecutive years (2020-23).

It seems that efforts are being made, assisted by campaigns by organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing, to help nurses and AHPs access the training they need. This also aims to ensure that increasing numbers of nurses (discussed below) don’t result in anyone missing out on this training.

A line graph displays how annual CPD budgets in the UK have changed.

However, simply planning for increased budgets is not quite enough, as more concrete assurances need to be put in place. The system itself needs to change to allow for increased funding.

The Royal College of Nursing has expressed issues with CPD funding and provision in the UK. For instance, the way that CPD funding for GP nurses in England is included in wider general practice funding, leads to nurses receiving inconsistent funding offers and therefore a “fragmented” approach to how they can develop skills and knowledge. In Northern Ireland, there is no central funding for the independent sector to receive post-registration education. They stated a concern in how CPD is based on particular needs as the year goes on, whereas it should also be identified through annual appraisals and personal development plans.

Royal College of Nursing Policy Report
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Therefore, in future it’s the hope that the UK government assesses training needs to meet not just current, but also future, requirements, so the future does not see more “unprecedented” strains on the NHS.

This is especially prudent thanks to the new, expensive, technology that is required to successfully train 21st Century nurses. CPD training is increasingly digitised, and training in IT skills is required for effective CPD to take place.

One instance of digital CPD training might include on-demand training videos, which are becoming an integral format to allow for maximum knowledge retention – e-books aren’t quite enough to capture dwindling attention spans today or communicate knowledge effectively enough.

Two nurses wearing personal protective equipment.

What Form of CPD is Preferred By Nurses?

Overall, nursing practice has become more evidence-based in recent years, with CPD for nurses being seen as mostly important for enhancing, upskilling, reskilling, and keeping knowledge and skills up-to-date. This trend will almost definitely continue, what with increased pressures on the NHS and constant new developments in technology and best practice.

Generally, evidence shows that many nurses prefer informal methods of learning, which are work-based. They perceive learning as more meaningful when they can experience it through interactions with colleagues. This might include being supervised or mentored by senior colleagues, carrying out their own mentoring or observations to practice skills, and attending team briefings.

This does suggest that CPD might be quite easy to carry out effectively in future. Despite the previously mentioned lack of funding, on-site learning can be as continuous as necessary without requiring the funds that e-books or paid training courses require. It simply requires managers to provide time and space for this training to take place during the clinical areas.

However, is there enough time for this workplace training to happen?

Clock in a hospital corridor

Time Considerations for Nurses’ CPD

In 2020, a 23.8% increase from 2019, of 37,365 nursing students, were accepted on to courses. Also, 3.2 million healthcare jobs are expected to be created between 2021 and the end of the decade. With record numbers of healthcare professionals joining the NHS, but also with the potential for the NHS to be overwhelmed with rising COVID cases, is there enough time or space to train nurses on-site? Or is there a risk of insufficient training being carried out and interrupted?

Therefore, nurses have reported in the last couple of years (even before COVID exacerbated their busy schedules) that it is difficult to fit training into their timetables. Lindsay Ratapana, an adult safeguarding NHS nurse, told Independent Nurse in 2019 that a lot of training is on offer for them, but staff don’t have sufficient time to undertake it. This makes sufficient training hard to achieve, and even mandatory training sometimes has to be carried out in nurses’ own time as opposed to during work hours.

An alternative to this could be nursing apprenticeships, which have been an option since September 2017. These allow for on-the-job training in a more structured way and can allow trainees to gain the same qualification level that would be available at a university degree. This can therefore allow for more efficient training, as nurses have immediate workplace experience and are adapted to a flexible work-based learning approach.

Low-angle shot of a medical school

How Will CPD Improve in Future?

The above struggles in fitting CPD into nurses’ schedules can be improved to allow for more effective CPD.

For instance, many nurses have reported that access to CPD is especially problematic due to having to travel long distances to attend courses. Therefore, a study by Mlambo, Silén and McGrath found that the most important thing for CPD is a culture that is flexible in terms of the availability, schedule, and location, of CPD courses.

The pandemic resulted in flexible working being seen as more possible, and nurses had to be more flexible with their time in order to take on the NHS’s workload. Therefore, CPD also has to be more flexible and allow for remote learning that doesn’t require such long travel times.

One key way that this is being achieved today is by making on-demand training videos available. These allow nurses to learn (or microlearn) in their own time. CPD events took place online as a point of necessity during the pandemic, but this has opened the doors for CPD events to be livestreamed more typically in future. Therefore, nurses who do not have the time to travel to these events in person can more easily view them remotely.

If you run CPD events for nurses, you should consider these techniques to help nurses learn in a more flexible way.

A doctor views a tomograph

Who should be responsible for CPD?

Mlambo, Silén and McGrath’s study found that nurses themselves believe that the responsibility for enrolling and participating in CPD is with the nurses themselves, as opposed to the employers. They had mixed attitudes towards CPD funding. Some believed that employers should be responsible for CPD funding. Others felt that the individual nurse should be responsible, or that this responsibility should be shared between them.

This tells us that, while CPD funding for nurses fluctuates, there is still disagreement as to where this funding should come from. This may make it more difficult for consistent funds to be allocated in the long term. However, nurses are self-motivated and many of them would agree with funding their own development, which is a good sign for the future of CPD.

A nurse in an orange mask smiles at the camera


Studies have found that a necessary prerequisite for nurses’ CPD is that it must be flexible to take into account their working patterns. More forward-thinking, consistent budgets need to be allocated to prevent surprise cuts. These budgets might be fully funded or their responsibility might be shared between employers and staff.

Do you want to support flexible learning via on-demand training videos, including or in addition to livestreams of CPD training sessions? Contact CPD online here to let us know about what training videos or livestreams you’d like us to produce for you, and we can arrange a free meeting and quote for your requirements.

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