A guide to clinical competency frameworks in the NHS

Achieving clinical competency is vital for any NHS professional, but existing methods of training delivery can be confusing, inefficient, and fragmented. That’s why NHS Trusts across the country need to adapt their clinical competency frameworks for the digital age.

The push for digitalisation remains front and centre for healthcare professionals. It is hoped that by harnessing the power of innovative technology, care will be streamlined and more scalable, and standards will permanently improve. It begins with how we learn.

By transitioning to online delivery methods utilising the latest digital learning platforms, your Trust can enhance the way it delivers its clinical competency frameworks. And clearly, achieving clinical competency depends upon the quality of your training approach.

In this blog, we provide an overview of clinical competency frameworks in the NHS, and the scope for digitalisation.

What is clinical competency?

Competency describes an individual’s ability to do something successfully, and a clinical competency is exactly that. A healthcare professional who has the knowledge, skills, and behaviours required to perform their job or part of their job well can be described as having clinical competency.

Simply put, competency-based training forges a direct link between learned behaviour and performance. By plotting the clinical competencies needed to perform a role well, organisations can create a framework for training and a tangible means for individuals to continually improve their skills, work more effectively, and enhance patient care.

What are clinical competency frameworks?

A clinical competency framework is essentially a group of competencies that are needed for effective performance, and which can be assessed by a qualified observer. Of course, these competencies vary depending on the role in question, leading to many NHS Trusts developing a wide range of different clinical competency frameworks for different applications.

A clinical competency framework is used as an evidence-based training programme with managers assessing an individual’s abilities on the job. As a result, basing your training on competency frameworks can be a highly effective because it is created around the concept of learning transfer; that is, the transfer of trained behaviours and theories into the real world where specific competencies matter.

Importantly, clinical competency frameworks are not national standards, and as such there is a lot of variation from organisation to organisation. Typically, though, competency frameworks have similar general requirements and always include observational assessment by a qualified person.

Creating a clinical competency framework

Ensuring your staff possess the clinical skills they need to perform their role well is of paramount importance – and this can be done using clinical competency frameworks, whatever the role is.

When designing a clinical competency framework, it’s important to include only competencies or behaviours that are measurable, and to include only a select number. Usually, this is around 12 or below for any particular role, which can then be grouped into clusters to make the framework more manageable and approachable.

It’s also important to think about the level of detail you include in your framework. General statements can make it difficult for individuals to understand what they need to do to fulfil the competency, whereas hyper-specific competencies can become unnecessarily time-consuming and distract learners from the real task at hand – delivering exceptional patient care.

Your framework should also be flexible enough to adapt to different levels of development and changing job roles. To achieve this, regular reviews should be carried out to ensure the clinical competency frameworks your Trust offers are consistently aligned with the goals, aspirations, and requirements of you and your workforce.

Importance of clinical competency frameworks

Better clinical competency means better patient care and satisfaction. Not only do clinical competency frameworks help NHS Trusts standardise and track their training delivery, but they also help cultivate a working environment built on continual development and learning.

Clinical competency frameworks are important because:

  • They deliver a consistent approach to training and systemise learning.
  • They help Trusts meet their legislative responsibilities.
  • They help advance training quality in the NHS.
  • They safeguard patient care.
  • They help promote healthcare professions.

Clinical competency frameworks for a modern NHS

As training in the NHS advances and digitises, so too must the way clinical competency frameworks are delivered.

Many Trusts are still using analogue methods, making it difficult to evidence competency, understand when reviews are due, and have visibility over the progress of staff. For too long, clinical competency frameworks have been assessed using paper-based systems and workbooks which are time-consuming, inefficient, and too cumbersome for use in busy healthcare environments.

Learning Workflow Platforms (LWP) are capable of consolidating your clinical competency frameworks into a single online space. They make it possible to track every stage of an individual’s journey to clinical competency on one unified platform, evidence competency at the click of a button, and adapt your frameworks to user needs. It is this adaptability that makes LWPs perfectly suited for the delivery of clinical competency frameworks – no matter the role, discipline, or development level in question.

Empower your healthcare professionals, rationalise training delivery, and see real world application of competency faster than existing methods. The future of the NHS is here, and it’s time for clinical competency frameworks to evolve.

Discover our platform >

Healthcare Learning Workflow Platform for clinical competency frameworks

If you’re finding it difficult to track and evidence training across your organisation, it may be time to transition to a digital format. People Alchemy is a Learning Workflow Platform with advanced functionality capable of meeting the needs of a modern NHS.

In the care sector, effective patient care depends on the continuous development, training, and assessment of clinical skills. Our platform offers a pioneering way to deliver, monitor, assess and evidence your clinical competencies – and see tangible savings in admin overheads.

To find out more about the true potential of People Alchemy to enhance the delivery of your clinical competency frameworks, book a demo with a member of our team.


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