Making space for CPD: tips to make the most of your time

In today’s hard-pressed healthcare system, carving out time for CPD can be problematic. CSP adviser Gwyn Owen offers some pointers

Understanding professional standards and service priorities can help you make space for CPD

One of the positive things to come out of the Francis inquiry – and the raft of reviews that followed – was a renewed commitment to the value of continuing professional development (CPD) in ensuring the workforce is competent to deliver safe, effective compassionate care.

Although there are some signs of change, with programmes of activity being introduced to develop capacity for collaborative leadership and quality improvement, member feedback suggests that little has changed in terms of access to CPD. When finances are tight and the demand for increased productivity continues to rise, CPD seems to slide down the list of organisational priorities. While this approach offers a short-term fix in terms of balancing the books and meeting productivity targets, over time it risks compromising individual and organisational duty of care.  

This article explains how to use professional standards and an understanding of service priorities to create space for CPD. It uses a case study to explain how a CSP member was successful in making the case for funded CPD. The process presented applies whether you’re making the case for time out for eLearning, to attend a CSP committee, or negotiating time/space within the workplace for peer reflection, in-service training or a journal club for example.

Supporting your case

The CSP’s approach to CPD is closely aligned with the post-Francis agenda. By focusing on learning outcomes rather than inputs (eg number of hours) CPD becomes a personalised process that maintains individuals’ capacity to deliver a high quality physiotherapy service as the expectations of practice continue to change.

The relationship between CPD and capacity to lead/support the development of excellence – of self, service and the profession, is unpacked in principle 4 of the CSP’s Code and Section 3 of the CSP’s Quality Assurance Standards Section 3 of the standards explains that CPD is a professional duty for individuals and their employer in meeting their duty of care to service users. The criteria in section 3.4 set an expectation that members have protected personal learning time of at least half a day a month for informal CPD activities – in addition to study leave arrangements for formal CPD and mandatory training. This section can be used to support physiotherapy staff and workplace representatives in their local negotiations for protected CPD time.  fl

Case study: Making the case to attend Physiotherapy UK 2014

Lee is a CSP member who is employed as a physiotherapy support worker in a community rehabilitation team. Lee is heavily involved with the team’s work in promoting physical activity among the older population through the delivery of chair-based exercise sessions in day centres and care homes and individualised programmes designed to maximise clients’ capacity to live independently at home. Lee has recently become a CSP learning champion and is keen to work with colleagues to improve access to CP in the workplace.

Lee’s annual objectives reflect the rise in the number of people on the team’s caseload presenting with dementia, and the trust’s target to provide services closer to home and to promote healthy old-age for people living in its catchment area. Lee was keen to attend Physiotherapy UK 2014, but was aware that the budget for study leave was severely restricted due to organisational finances/staffing issues.

Lee visited the Physiotherapy UK conference website with three questions in mind:

  • What would I gain from attending Physiotherapy UK? (formal timetabled sessions and networking opportunities).
  • How would learning from the event: (i) enhance the quality of service I can offer people on my caseload (support worker role)?  (ii) my colleagues (CSP learning champion role)?
  • How does the conference content match my objectives, service needs and organisational targets?

Lee highlighted sessions in the conference programme that related to the team’s learning needs and objectives around understanding dementia and chair-based exercise. The programme also covered self-management – a topic that was part of the team’s service development plans; and reflective practice – something that Lee as a CSP learning champion was being asked to support in the department. Lee was also aware that the exhibition space would offer opportunities to seek advice from CSP staff about a work-related issue, to update the department’s rehab equipment database and to network with other support workers in the UK.

Lee used this analysis to prepare and submit an application for study leave. By being explicit about how the learning outcomes from specific sessions linked to both personal and departmental objectives and service priorities, Lee was able to show how the trust’s investment in CPD would benefit service users and the physiotherapy department. The application was successful. The trust agreed to release Lee from the workplace and pay the conference fee, as long as Lee agreed to deliver a session to share learning with departmental staff (another potential CPD opportunity for Lee in preparing, delivering and evaluating the session and for staff attending the session).

How to use this article to support my CPD

This activity will help you make the case for space to engage in a specific CPD opportunity – whether as an individual, or as a group.

In order to build a convincing argument, you will need to collect the following information:

  • details about the CPD opportunity – format and intended learning outcomes, dates/time, resources/support required, and any other associated costs
  • personal objectives/learning and development plans for the individuals involved
  • departmental/organisational objectives, targets and priorities
  • workplace CPD policies and processes

The first stage in the process is to deconstruct the CPD opportunity. Think about the quality of what is on offer and how its design and delivery works to generate specific learning outcomes.

Use the information you have collected so far to analyse/record how the learning outcomes generated by the CPD opportunity:

  • enable you to fulfil personal objectives/learning and development plans
  • relate to departmental/organisational objectives, targets and priorities
  • add value to the quality of the service you currently provide

Use your analysis to develop an argument that justifies why make the case for space to engage in the CPD opportunity.

Once you have drafted your argument, review it – from your line manager’s perspective.

You might want to work through this step with a peer. Ask them for feedback about the strengths of your justification and where it needs developing.

Once you have finished critiquing your argument, look back at the activity and make a note of what you have learnt from it. Having invested some time in this task, make sure you store the evidence of your learning with the record of what you learnt, in your portfolio.


  • The elevator pitch Frontline 20(13)29-30 offers advice about how to pull together a pitch about your practice that opens a conversation with a decision- maker. The principles of the elevator pitch are potentially useful for opening conversations with management about CPD – for you and your service.

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a CSP learning champion, email:

Gwyn Owen

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