What is the CSTF? – The Acronym You Should Look Out For

You’re always seeing the acronym but not sure what the CSTF is and why you should care…


It doesn’t matter what your background is when you work in healthcare the statutory and mandatory training is something that has to be undertaken and refreshed before you can practice. Whether you work in a major hospital or a care home setting; are a generalist or a specialist; newly-trained or experienced; working at the front-line or in a support role – any employer (permanent or not) needs to know that you have up-to-date training. If you work with multiple employers or agencies, you’ll probably have been asked about this several times, as well as being asked to show your certificates and asked the question: “Was this training CSTF-aligned?”.But what does it mean to be CSTF-aligned?


What is the CSTF?

The UK Core Skills Training Framework (CSTF) is a collection of recommendations that cover the key statutory and mandatory training subjects for many roles in the health sector. It describes the key learning outcomes that any training should include, how often it should take place (including refresher periods) and the best approach to delivering that training. The CSTF isn’t actually a regulatory requirement – but it is a common framework to guide healthcare organisations when they design and plan training activities. The aim is to ensure that they’re standardised across the UK and focused on the needs that are common to all roles. These are minimum expected standards, and many healthcare organisations may have their own more detailed standards.


Where did it come from?

Originally launched in 2013, the CSTF is derived from national guidelines and legislation. It was developed in collaboration with industry experts and professional bodies, such as the Resuscitation Council, the Infection Prevention Society, and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child HealthSkills for Health continues to maintain and update the framework, and the current version v1.5 was released in October 2018.


Why trusts and healthcare providers look out for it?


As well as providing guidance when they develop training programmes, the CSTF acts as a common standard. Skills for Health maintains a directory of healthcare providers who have aligned their training offer to the CSTF. This means that, when they recruit staff, an employer can check if the training that was delivered by a previous employer was CSTF-aligned and thereby decide whether that employee needs to go through induction/refresher training or can begin work straight away. This, of course, saves time and money in not forcing people to undergo unnecessary training.


Why agencies and training providers look out for it


For locum agencies, recruitment agencies or commercial training companies that provide training in the statutory and mandatory subjects, it means that they too can use the CSTF documentation to plan their training programmes. Increasingly often, the purchasing consortia (private and NHS), who are buying training services or asking an agency to supply personnel, will specify CSTF-aligned training as a requirement. And when an agency takes a new person on to their books, they can use the directory of healthcare providers in the same way as a direct employer does to check on previous training.


What does it mean for you?

If the training that you received from a previous employer was CSTF-aligned, a new employer knows straight away what the content would have covered. So, if you work with multiple employers and/or agencies,this will prevent you from having to go through multiple rounds of induction or refresher training. If you’re returning to the workforce and need to arrange refresher training, looking for a training provider who is CSTF-aligned would be a smart move. You can even download the CSTF subject guides and see for yourself what the training should cover.


Aligned vs Verified

Any organisation can download the CSTF document set, including the subject guides, and use these to check if their training meets the recommendations – revising and updating it if necessary.

“By sharing this information, employer organisations can recognise where training delivered in other organisations is in compliance with the Statutory/Mandatory CSTF and thereby help to prevent unnecessary duplication of training as staff move between roles and organisations.”  – John Rogers, CEO, Skills for Health

Commercial Training Providers may also self-align to the CSTF; asking Skills for Health to carry out an independent review of their training to check that it meets the recommendations and learning outcomes defined in the CSTF Subject Guide.

Being verified doesn’t guarantee the quality of the training delivery – but it does mean all the essential learning content is included. Where a provider has supplied copies of their learning to us and this has been, they may become a Verified Training Provider and describe courses as ‘CSTF Verified.

Aligned and verified are the only terms that are valid in referring to the CSTF. Anything else has been invented by the training provider. If you want to know whether a training provider delivers high-quality training there are other things to look out for, such as the Skills for Health Quality Mark or Skills for Care Endorsement.

Benefits of the Statutory/Mandatory CSTF


  • Provides a national ‘benchmark’ for the content of statutory/mandatory training
  • Sets out minimum learning outcomes, frequency of refresher training and links to relevant legislation or expert guidance
  • Can be used by any healthcare employer in the UK including NHS, independent healthcare providers and educational organisations
  • Standardises the interpretation and delivery of statutory/mandatory training
  • Linkages between the Framework, E-Learning and WIRED compliance reporting puts all the right information in the hands of employers in a new and powerful way


Where to find out more…

You can look for healthcare organisations whose training is CSTF-aligned and training providers who are CSTF-verified on the CSTF directory at https://cstfdirectory.skillsforhealth.org.uk/

And you can search for training from CSTF-aligned training providers on the Skills Platform at https://www.skillsplatform.org/cstf-aligned-providers

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