Simplified Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF)


In response to employer and staff views, the NHS Staff Council has simplified the KSF to make it easier to use and to give trusts the flexibility to tailor the KSF to meet local needs.

Simplified KSF - what's changed? 

The KSF now makes it easier for staff to identify the core skills that they need to do their job and their development needs. The key features are:  

  • Focuses on six core dimensions covering the key areas that apply to every job.  These have been re-written so they are shorter, simpler and easier to understand.  They now have examples of behaviours and actions to support appraisal discussions, that indicate whether the dimension is being met or not. The six dimensions are: 
  1. communication
  2. personal and people development
  3. health, safety and security
  4. service improvement
  5. quality
  6. equality and diversity.
  • Different options for developing post outlines to identify the skills, knowledge and behaviours for roles. For example, producing summary post outlines or generic post outlines for different bands, or just using existing job descriptions or person specifications.
  • Reduces the need for evidence gathering for reviews.  If managers and staff are discussing performance as part of routine supervision meetings, staff do not need to produce written evidence for the appraisal or discuss every skill and knowledge area - they only need to focus on specific development needs.
  • Makes better links to appraisals, using the KSF as a development tool. Based on good practice from employers, the NHS Staff Council guide Appraisals and KSF made simple - a practical guide outlines a simple appraisal process with tools, tips and templates for line managers and staff.
  • Option to develop 'team' objectives for large integrated teams, but using this approach with individual development reviews.
  • New optional leadership and management dimension for senior roles; this dimension has been developed in response to feedback from employers.  

Trusts can still continue to use all or parts of the original full KSF if it is helpful, alternatively employers may use other skills/competancy frameworks which are in line with the KSF principles.

The specific dimensions may be useful for staff with on-going professional development needs. The KSF is a flexible tool for employers to tailor and adapt to meet local needs.

Supporting employers

We have developed a range of materials on the simplified KSF for employers:

  • NHS Staff Council guide - the NHS Staff Council has developed Appraisals and KSF made simple - a practical guide, which covers the independent review, the simplified KSF and how it supports appraisals.  
  • Appraisal tools, tips and templates - you can download the tools and templates that are in the practical guide as word documents from our website, so you can adapt them to meet your organisation's needs. 
  • Case studies - examples of how Salford Royal, Cambridge University and Mid Cheshire foundation trusts have simplified KSF as part of their appraisal process, and increased appraisal rates.
  • FAQs - frequently asked questions about the simplified KSF; what has changed and how it can be used.
  • Pay circular - outlining the changes to the KSF.  We have also updated the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook. - outlining the changes to the KSF.  We have also updated the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook.

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