The NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) is currently being introduced throughout the UK as a key part of the NHS Agenda for Change pay reforms. In this context, it seeks to define the knowledge and skills that NHS staff need to perform their jobs and to provide a framework for their career and pay progression. It is based on tried and tested human resource management standards, according to which individual members of staff are expected to make a commitment to develop themselves and to apply their knowledge and skills to meet the demands of their post.

The guiding principles behind the development and implementation of the KSF are that it is:

  • applicable to all staff working in the NHS across the UK who are subject to Agenda for Change

  • developed and implemented in partnership between management, trade unions and professional bodies

  • designed to support the development of individuals in their posts and in their careers

  • equitable — the KSF is a framework for all staff and one that recognises the contribution that all staff make to the provision of high quality services for the public

  • simple and feasible to implement.

The purpose of the KSF is to:

  • support the effective learning and development of individuals and teams by providing a framework within which NHS staff can be supported to learn throughout their careers

  • support the development of individuals in the post in which they are employed and with managers and staff being clear about what is required

  • enable managers and staff to identify the resources and pathways that are required to enable appropriate learning and development to take place

  • promote equality for and diversity of all staff — with every member of staff using the same framework.

One of the main benefits of the KSF is expected to be the adoption of more developmental approaches in all NHS organisations, whereby learning and staff development acquire greater importance and value. Another significant benefit will be higher standards and competencies on the part of individual staff, performance improvements and error reductions.

Full details of the KSF are contained within The NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (NHS KSF) and the Development Review Process Handbook, which was published in October 2004 by the Department of Health (DH).

A recognition that the NHS KSF should play a key role in ensuring all staff in the NHS participate in an annual review process has led to a simplification of the NHS KSF as described in NHS Employeres Briefing 77 published in November 2010.

Following an independent review, the NHS Staff Council has developed a simplified NHS KSF aimed at improving the coverage and quality of appraisals which will be measured at the next NHS staff survey.

Key changes are summarised below and the full detail is available in the NHS Staff Council document “Appraisals and KSF made simple – a practical guide”.

  • The six core dimensions have been rewritten in simplified language and now include examples of behaviours and actions that indicate whether they are being met or not

  • There are now different options for developing post outlines thus simplifying the process

  • The need for the collection of ‘evidence’ is significantly reduced

  • New resources to help appraisers are now available including guidance on objective setting

  • Guidance on developing team objectives is now available

  • In response to employer feedback there is now a new optional dimension on leadership and management that employers can use for senior roles.

All of these changes should ensure that employers are better supported when reviewing and updating their annual appraisal processes. The new resources on the NHS Employers website also include a tool to assess how well your organisation is doing on delivering effective appraisals as well as templates for local adaptations.

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