Section 6: Career and pay progression (Scotland and Northern Ireland)

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6.1 The NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF)1, is a tool for describing the knowledge and skills staff need to apply at work in order to deliver high quality services and includes an annual system of review and development for staff. It applies to all staff covered by Agenda for Change contracts.

Simplified process

6.2 The NHS Staff Council guidance Appraisals and KSF Made Simple a Practical Guide enables NHS organisations to develop and implement local arrangements that are consistent with the principles underlying the national KSF Framework.

6.3 The guidance detailed in paragraph 6.2 in this Section, supplements rather than replaces the full Knowledge and Skills Framework. Paragraphs 6.4 to 6.15 in this Section outline the processes for development reviews which were agreed as part of the original KSF documentation. Organisations may wish to continue to refer to the original provisions if the local partners wish to do so or to pursue the new guidance. The guidance could also be used to complement existing good local practice where the full KSF has not been implemented.

Development review process

6.4 The output from the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework for an individual job will be a list of descriptions and/or standards (KSF post outline) specifying the minimum applied knowledge and skills required for a job and how this should develop during a person’s time in post. It will provide prompts for action by individuals and their managers to update or develop their knowledge and skills, or address areas for development in the application of knowledge and skills. Development review procedures should be jointly agreed by management and staff representatives locally.

6.5 It must be clear which elements, as identified in the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework, should be demonstrated at both the foundation and second gateway (see paragraphs 6.16 to 6.20 in this section).

6.6 The KSF post outlines within an organisation will be available to all staff members to help them identify the knowledge and skills requirements likely to be needed for future career steps and identify the development needed to support them. These requirements are not, however, fixed and will be reviewed in partnership when posts become vacant or changes need to take place for service development and other reasons.

6.7 All staff will have annual development reviews against the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) which will result in the production of a personal development plan. Similar to current practice, development reviews will take place between staff and their manager or, where appropriate, their supervisor, a professional adviser or another appropriately trained senior team member. Development review procedures should be jointly agreed by management and staff representatives locally.

6.8 The main purpose of the development review will be to look at the way a member of staff is developing with reference to:

  • how the duties and responsibilities of the job are being undertaken, based on current agreed objectives;
  • the application of knowledge and skills in the workplace;
  • the consequent development needs of the individual member of staff.

6.9 The primary outputs of a development review for an employee will be a record of the above against the relevant KSF post outline and an individual personal development plan, which links to the needs of the employee in the post. During the development review process, discussion should cover the duties and responsibilities of the job that is being undertaken, as outlined in paragraph 6.8 in this section. This will help to define future objectives and learning needs.

6.10 The review of learning achievements demonstrated in the workplace will be demonstrated by reference to the current personal development plan.

6.11 Development will primarily focus on helping members of staff to carry out their current job to the standard specified in the KSF outline for the post, although personal interests and opportunities for career progression will also be taken into account. Approaches to development will not just consist of courses but will also involve distance learning, private study, opportunities to participate in particular projects or work areas, short secondments, work shadowing, peer review and other continuing professional development activities.

6.12 Development plans will distinguish between goals for the year ahead and those applying to the longer term. There will be a commitment from both parties to make all reasonable efforts to meet the developmental goals for the year ahead in that year and elements not completed through force of circumstance will be carried over to the following year, unless agreed otherwise.

6.13 Managers and staff will work together to fulfil agreed development plans. Employers will encourage staff members to progress and develop and, where training and/or development needs have been identified and agreed, employers will ensure sufficient financial support is provided. Where appropriate, employers should ensure that staff have appropriate time to fulfil training and/or development needs related to their current job and appropriate financial and other support. If an employer fails to do this, they cannot defer pay progression. Wherever possible, employers will also provide similar encouragement and support for elements of the personal development plan which reflect personal interests or help staff prepare for a more senior role or transfer to a different area of work within the NHS.

6.14 Staff members will contribute to undertaking the agreed personal development plan through their personal effort. They may individually choose, where appropriate, to commit personal time and resources, especially in those areas relating to longer-term career development. It is the employer’s responsibility to support individuals and their personal efforts appropriately. Where development needs essential to the post are agreed with the employer, there will not normally be any requirement for the employee to use his or her unpaid personal time.

6.15 Local development and review processes must be designed to ensure that part-time staff and those working outside normal hours, have equal access to them.


6.16 Gateways are points on a pay band where assessment of the application of knowledge and skills necessary to progress will be made. There are two gateway points: the foundation gateway and the second gateway.

Foundation gateway

6.17 The foundation gateway applies no later than 12 months after appointment to the pay band, regardless of the pay point to which the person is appointed.

Second gateway

6.18 The foundation gateway will be followed by a second gateway which will vary between pay bands as set out in Table 3.

Table 3

Position of second gateway
Pay band Position of second gateway 
Pay band 1 Before final point
Pay bands 2 - 4 Before first of last two points
Pay bands 5 - 7 Before first of last three points
Pay band 8, ranges A - D  Before final point
Pay band 9 Before final point

6.19 The review at the foundation gateway will be based on the agreed subset as specified in the KSF outline for the post. The review at the second gateway will be based on the relevant dimensions, levels and indicators, as specified in the full KSF outline for the post.

6.20 The gateway review should take place in time for staff to progress on their normal incremental date. Robust jointly agreed local arrangements must be in place to deal with cases where this is not possible (for example because the relevant manager is ill). These should ensure that there is no incentive to abuse the process.

Pay progression

6.21 Newly appointed or promoted staff, joining a pay band under the system, will serve an initial foundation period of up to 12 months. During this initial period all staff will have at least two discussions with their manager (or the person acting as their reviewer) to review progress, guided by the KSF foundation outline for the post. The first of these discussions should normally be during the induction period. The aim of these discussions and any resulting support and development will be to help staff make a success of the new job and confirm as quickly as possible that they are applying the basic knowledge and skills needed for the job, and can pass through the foundation gateway and commence progression up their pay band (see Annex 20, Development of Professional Roles, paragraph 3).

6.22 Once progression has been agreed, a member of staff will normally progress to the next point on their pay band 12 months after appointment and to subsequent points every 12 months thereafter, subject to meeting the criteria for progression when they pass through the second gateway point.

6.23 Before moving through the second gateway there will be an assessment, as part of the process of development review, against the full KSF outline for the post. Staff will normally expect to move through the second gateway at this point but, subject to the safeguards set out below, progression may be deferred if the review indicates that they are not yet applying the full range of knowledge and skills required for the post.

6.24 The gateway system will only become fully operational when an employer has put in place reasonable arrangements to ensure that staff have access to development reviews, personal development plans and appropriate support for training and development to meet the applied knowledge and skills required at the gateway concerned.

6.25 Existing staff with at least 12 months experience in post will be assumed to have met the criteria for passing through the foundation gateway. Where the gateway system is operational they will, however, be subject to the normal operation of the system at the second gateway.

6.26 The following safeguards will also apply:

  • there will be a normal expectation of progression and no national or local quotas will apply. All staff must have an equal opportunity to demonstrate the required standard of knowledge and skills to progress through the gateways and pay points;
  • the applied skills and knowledge required at the foundation and second gateways should be clearly stated during recruitment;
  • the KSF outlines may be changed subsequently by local agreement, within the work area concerned, where changes apply to a number of posts, or with the individual, where they apply only to a single post. They may also be changed where that is necessary to reflect a change in professional standards, as agreed by the relevant professional body or authority;
  • the demonstration of knowledge and skills must be that used within each dimension, level and indicators in the KSF;
  • employers must ensure there is a robust, jointly agreed process for checking managers' decisions and reviewing disagreements, with an agreed timescale for re-review;
  • pay progression cannot be deferred unless there has been prior discussion between the individual and the person undertaking their review (which should be recorded) about the knowledge and skills that the individual needs to develop and apply and the member of staff has been given the opportunity to achieve the necessary development;
  • employers and staff representatives acting in partnership, will monitor decisions on pay progression to ensure that there is no discrimination or bias in relation to race or ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age or trade union membership, or pattern of employment e.g. part-time, flexible and night workers.

Development of professional roles

6.27 Guidance on the development of professional roles for healthcare professionals on pay band 5 is set out at Annex 20. Exceptional grounds for deferral of pay progression

6.28 Where significant weaknesses in performance in the current post have been identified, discussed and documented with the staff member concerned and have not been resolved, despite opportunities for appropriate training/development and support, exceptionally, pay progression may be deferred at any pay point until the problems are resolved.

6.29 Significant weaknesses are those which prevent a staff member from continuing to apply consistently, across a recognised normal workload, the knowledge and skills specified under the KSF foundation post outline for the foundation gateway or, for staff above the second gateway, the full range of knowledge and skills specified under the full KSF post outline, without continued supervision and support inappropriate to the post.

Career development moves

6.30 Where a member of staff moves to another job in the NHS covered by this agreement, where the necessary arrangements to support the operation of the gateways are in place, pay progression will normally depend on demonstrating the knowledge and skills specified in the KSF outline for the post, within the first twelve months of appointment.

6.31 Where, however, an individual re-trains in a different area of work, for wider service or operational reasons, with the explicit agreement of the employer concerned, their existing level of pay should be protected. Once protection is agreed, it may not be withdrawn until the person concerned has had a reasonable opportunity to complete their re-training and progress to a point where pay protection is no longer required. Explicit employer agreement in this context cannot, however, be deemed to have been given solely because the employer has agreed to re-employ someone following redundancy.

Temporary movement into a higher pay band

6.32 Individuals may be moved into a higher pay band where it is necessary to fill a post on a temporary basis when a vacancy is unfilled, but being advertised, or the post is being held open for someone who is due to return, e.g. from long-term sickness absence, maternity leave, or from extended training.

6.33 Pay should be set either at the minimum of the new pay band or, if this would result in no pay increase (by reference to basic pay plus any recruitment and retention premium, if applicable) the first pay point in the band which would deliver an increase in pay. Temporary movement into a new pay band should not normally last more than six months or less than one month, except in instances of maternity leave or long-term sickness absence, where a longer period may be known at the outset. In circumstances where the individual is not required to carry out the full responsibilities of the post, pay will be determined by job evaluation.

6.34 Where temporary movement into a higher pay band results in only one extra pay point the incremental date remains the same. Where temporary movement results in more than one extra pay point the incremental date for the period of the temporary movement becomes the date the movement began.

Pay on promotion

6.35 Pay on promotion should be set either at the minimum of the new pay band or, if this would result in no pay increase, the first pay point in the band which would deliver an increase in pay (by reference to basic pay plus any recruitment and retention premium, if applicable).

1 Available at:
and at in Scotland.

Pay circular (AforC) 2/2013: amendment number 28

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