Barriers to access

The CSP is working on ways to help members access training. Robert Millett finds out more

Continuing professional development (CPD) is the personal responsibility of every individual, but there can be many barriers to accessing opportunities. That’s especially true in the current climate of cuts, when many departments’ training budgets are being reduced and constraints on services are leading to a reduction in dedicated CPD time.

With this in mind, the CSP has been investigating how members can gain a fairer deal for access to learning opportunities.

Carol Wood, CSP Union Learning Fund project officer, has been overseeing an 18-month project examining the quality of members’ access to CPD in the workplace.

The research aimed to compile examples of good practice, examine how the society’s Employment Relations and Union Services (ERUS) function could improve equality of access, and find out how stewards could use their skills to negotiate better access.

‘The information-gathering part of the project wanted to establish the barriers to CPD and whether they are worse for associates, disabled and part-time members,’ says Ms Wood.

‘We also wanted to know how members viewed the role of ERUS and stewards, in relation to access to CPD – and what stewards felt their role should be,’ she adds.

The researchers sent questionnaires to members and stewards in England to gather feedback about the current levels of access and what barriers existed. They sent a separate survey to stewards in England to identify the level of steward involvement and to gauge how important stewards considered the issue to be. Requests for examples of good practice were also sent out via iCSP and the society’s other networks.

The feedback identified the current level of access to CPD, as well as its relation to resources such as available time and money. In all, 4287 physios, 371 associates and 198 stewards responded.

The results suggested that there was unequal access to CPD – whether as formal training or work-based learning and development – across the country.

The key findings indicated that many members have encountered barriers to accessing CPD.

Opportunities for learning, development and training are variable, both within large organizations and between employers.

The steward’s role

The findings also revealed a few pilot sites where stewards were negotiating access to CPD on behalf of their members, and many others where they were keen to do so.

‘I think the most interesting information is that stewards want to be more involved,’ says Ms Wood. ‘Also, the members value CPD highly and many reported they would be more likely to stay with an employer who had good CPD access.’

The majority of stewards have not previously been involved in CPD negotiation, she says. But there is potential for them to have a more strategic role in this area, in addition to the help they already offer members with issues such as performance management cases.

Stewards could be more involved in the learning agenda – negotiating on policies such as learning agreements, personal development reviews, the knowledge and skills framework and protected CPD time.

CSP stewards are now receiving support to help members bargain for improved access to training and development opportunities.

Examples of good practice are being used in the curriculum for steward training days on negotiating access for CPD. Materials are being piloted for regional training days, while briefing papers are being produced for members, managers and stewards.

The society will conduct further research and surveys of members and stewards to build on the information gathered. The resulting resources should enable members to find out their rights and gain negotiating tools to get access to CPD, allowing them to improve their knowledge and patient care.

Better access to CPD is good for both members and their employers, says Ms Wood.

‘When greater access to CPD is provided there are numerous benefits – recruitment and retention rates are better and there is also evidence that it improves efficiency, productivity and innovation,’ she explains.

‘It leads to confidence, better service delivery and a reduction in stress levels and sickness absence.’
Resource documents from the Union Learning Fund project should be on the CSP website within the next few weeks.
The CSP website,, provides a range of CPD information and tools to support member’s learning.

For information about various aspects of CPD, see earlier features in this Frontline series, starting on 5 January 2011. fl

How to use this article: time-mapping

One of the biggest barriers is lack of time. CSP professional adviser Gwyn Owen introduces a series of exercises to carve out time for learning

In today’s busy world, CPD can be one of the first things to fall off your ‘to do’ list.

This exercise is the first of a series of three designed to help you find time for CPD. Although each could be completed independently, the benefit will be bigger if you complete all three as a set.

Please keep the information you develop somewhere safe and easy to find – so you can use it for the following CPD exercises, to be published on 4 May and 18 May.

Mapping time

This task is all about recording how you use your time.

Choose a way of recording the information that suits your preferences and fits in with your day-to-day practice. You could, for example, take a photocopy of your work diary and add personal notes to that. Or it might be easier to talk to the voice recorder on your mobile phone/MP3 player. Keep this information accessible but safe.

At the end of the two weeks, have a quick look through the information you’ve recorded. Are there patterns emerging from the information – about how you use your time, and who or what decides how you use your time?


For each day during the next two weeks, make a note of how you spend your time by recording the following information.

Time of day

Note when you started and finished each activity.


Draw a thumbnail sketch of the activity. Make specific notes of memorable events and situations (both positive and negative) and of situations that enabled you to learn something (information, understanding, skill or behaviour). Looking at time in this way might mean you expand your record of activity to include events and situations that happened outside your normal working hours. 

For each activity – who decided that you would carry out that activity, at that point in time?

For example: had you negotiated a specific time to work with a client? or to have a phone conversation with a peer? Was the timing of the activity predetermined? or part of your department’s timetable? Did you choose the timing, or was it imposed on you by someone or something else?

Be sure to record ‘dead time’ – those spaces during the day when you are unable to use time for activity because, for example, you’re having to wait for somebody or something else before starting the activity.

Robert Millett

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