Capabilities and the NHS People Plan


By Colin Wright | 19 October 2020

The recently published NHS People Plan draws attention to the need for ‘more people, working differently, in a compassionate and inclusive culture’, including a focus on ‘new ways of working and delivering care’. It highlights how the response to Covid-19 has shown people to be flexible and adaptable, working within multi-professional teams created around people’s experience and capabilities. Looking to the future, the Plan emphasises the renewed importance of flexible skills and building capabilities rather than staying within traditionally defined roles. This aspect of the plan had immediate resonance for me.

In recent years, my work as ‘Frameworks Development Manager’ at Skills for Health, has been to lead development of a range of frameworks to support development of the current and future workforce. Initially, our Core Skills Training Framework (CSTF) focussed on the competences required for statutory and mandatory training. In this, it was important to establish clearly defined minimum standards, and to provide the learning outcomes for safe and effective training.

As we have extended our portfolio of frameworks, we have increasingly focused on developing ‘capabilities frameworks’ which articulate the wider range of knowledge, skills and behaviours which people bring to their work. This may include being innovative, managing change, complex decision making, dealing with situations where there is uncertainty, and continuing to improve performance. This requires not only achieving a minimum standard of performance – competence (still important) – but also bringing to the workplace a wider range of personal attributes – capabilities.

Importantly, our capabilities frameworks provide the ‘building blocks’ for developing roles and teams but are not constrained by existing ways of working or existing job roles. The frameworks identify where there are core/transferable capabilities shared by many and where there are also specialist areas of practice. Therefore, this approach very much supports and enables the ‘new way of working and delivering care’ and the development of multi-professional teams as proposed in the NHS People Plan.

We have now developed numerous capabilities frameworks and have a tried and tested development process. However, it is also the case that framework development often feels as much an art as a science – and each framework is different according to the relevant scope of practice. Yet what they all have in common is providing a clear structure and seeking to achieve consensus on the requirements of the workforce in a particular area of practice. This is achieved by working collaboratively with a range of stakeholders, including practitioners, service users/patients and their families.

Capabilities frameworks provide recognition of the knowledge, skills, and behaviours which people bring to their work, leading to a better appreciation of shared and specialist capabilities and highlighting pathways for future development.

As we continue to support the sector to make the aspirations of the NHS People Plan a reality, find out more here about the wide range of capabilities frameworks currently available. Plus, learn about a number of new frameworks in development, as we strive to ensure the high quality and consistent outcomes for people who use our NHS services remain for years to come.

Please get in touch here for how we can further support your workforce both today and into the future.

Colin Wright has been part of the team at Skills for Health for several years, with experience and expertise that embody the values of our organisation. Prior to joining Skills for Health, he spent 18 years as a self-employed workforce development consultant. This included working as an associate for several sector skills councils including Skills for Health and Skills for Justice. Now as the Frameworks Development Manager, Colin works with leading NHS and healthcare bodies to uphold standards and frameworks that improve workforce skills and development.


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