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Evaluation of the UK Public Health Skills and Knowledge Framework (PHSKF): Implications for international competency frameworks

Bornioli, Anna; Evans, David; Cotter, Claire

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Anna Bornioli

David Evans
Professor in Health Services Research

Claire Cotter


Background: The value of competency frameworks for developing the public health workforce is widely acknowledged internationally. However, there is a lack of formal evaluations of such frameworks. In the UK, the Public Health Skills and Knowledge Framework (PHSKF) is a key tool for the public health workforce across the UK, and this study presents the evaluation of the PHSKF 2016 version, with the aim of reflecting on implications for international public health competency frameworks.

Methods: A sequential explanatory design was employed. An online survey (n = 298) was completed with stakeholders across the four UK nations and different sectors. This was followed by 18 telephone interviews with stakeholders and survey completers. Quantitative results were analysed descriptively; qualitative transcripts were analysed with thematic analysis.

Results: Most respondents had used the PHSKF occasionally or rarely, and most users found it useful (87%) and easy to use (82%). Main purposes of use included team/workforce development (e.g. setting of standards) and professional development (e.g. identify professional development opportunities). Some positive experiences emerged of uses of the PHSKF to support organisational redevelopments. However, 23% of respondents had never used the framework. Areas for improvement included greater clarity on purpose and audience, the need for more support from employers and for clear career progression opportunities, and stronger links with other competency frameworks.

Conclusions: The development of a digital version of the PHSKF, together with improving buy-in from the workforce and employers could make an important contribution towards UK public health workforce development. Further evaluation and shared learning internationally of the implementation of public health competency frameworks would support global public health workforce development.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 1, 2020
Online Publication Date Jun 18, 2020
Publication Date Jun 18, 2020
Deposit Date Oct 9, 2020
Publicly Available Date Oct 9, 2020
Journal BMC Public Health
Electronic ISSN 1471-2458
Publisher BioMed Central
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 1
Article Number 956
Keywords Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
Public URL
Additional Information Received: 10 October 2019; Accepted: 1 June 2020; First Online: 18 June 2020; : Ethical approval was given by the University of the West of England’s Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences Research Ethics Committee (ref. number HAS.19.01.105). Written informed consent was obtained from the participants for publication of this study. A copy of the written consent is available for review by the Editor of this journal.; : Not applicable; : The research was funded by Public Health England, which is among the editors of the PHSKF. CC is the lead officer for the PHSKF in PHE. The views expressed are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of PHE.


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