National Syllabus for Conflict Resolution Training

A key measure to protect NHS staff and those who deliver NHS services from violence is conflict resolution training (CRT).

It is important that staff feel safe in their working environment. Violent behaviour not only affects them personally but it also has a negative impact on the standard of services and the delivery of patient care.

In terms of tackling violence against staff, CRT is a key preventative tool. It forms part of a range of measures introduced to make the NHS a safer place to work. Clearly, it is not sufficient to react to incidents after they occur; ways of reducing the risk of incidents occurring and preventing them from happening in the first place must be found.

NHS Protect has developed generic learning aims and outcomes for use by all NHS organisations, providers of NHS services and training providers to assist them in their delivery of CRT. These are found in our Conflict resolution training curriculum. The curriculum has been prepared based on extensive experience in the CRT field and using a student-centred approach to learning.

We recommend that all staff whose work for NHS organisations and providers of NHS services brings them into contact with members of the public undergo a CRT risk assessment. Under legislative requirements, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that individuals and roles are risk-assessed in relation to violence and aggression to determine whether CRT is required and to what level.

The curriculum also provides suggested examples of course content and has been mapped to the Skills CFA national occupational standards suite Prevention and Management of Violence in the Workplace.

Main Categories of Frontline Staff

NHS Primary Care Trusts

Outreach Staff
(e.g. Health Visitors , Community Midwives, Sick Child Nurses and District Nurses)

GP Practice Staff

Public Health Medicine and Community Health Services Medical and Dental Staff

Reception Staff

Accident and Emergency Clinical and Non-Clinical Staff

Ambulance Staff

Outreach Staff (e.g. Midwives, District Nurses and Social workers)

Security Staff

Reception Staff

Clinical and Non-clinical staff on Hospital Wards

Ancillary Staff not covered by the above categories


To recognise different aspects of conflict that staff and professionals may encounter and to understand and be aware of different methods of resolving such conflicts.

Key elements:
The course will cover:

  • verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • recognising warning signs
  • cultural awareness
  • and de-escalation techniques

Role- playing and student participation will be an essential part of the day’s training.

Students will receive a workbook where they can make notes throughout the day and which will contain the course material for future reference.

Once they have attended the course they will receive a certificate to recognise this fact and their employer will also be required to record this.

The CFSMS is currently exploring other methods of recognising attendance on the course through the Continual Professional Development (CPD) path, and for the health body itself, through the Improving Working Lives (IWL) initiative.

By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe common causes of conflict.
  2. Describe two forms of communication, i.e.verbal and non-verbal.
  3. Give examples of communication breakdown.
  4. Explain three examples of communication models that can assist conflict in conflict resolution.
  5. Describe patterns of behaviours they may encounter during different interactions.
  6. Explain the different warning and danger signs.
  7. Give examples of impact factors.
  8. Describe the use of distance when dealing with conflict.
  9. Explain the use of “reasonable force”as it applies to conflict resolution.
  10. Describe different methods for dealing with possible conflict situations.

AIM 1:  To provide a summary of the role of NHS Protect, local anti-crime roles and security management work in the NHS.

AIM 2:  To provide an illustration of what constitutes conflict, how it arises and, using personal experience, how to be effective in reducing the risk of conflict occurring.

AIM 3:  To explore the role of communication in conflict and how to use it effectively.

AIM 4:  To outline the procedural, environmental and legal context of violence in the workplace.

AIM 5:  To explain what is required of individuals and organisations after a violent incident and the support available to those involved.

Intended Learning Outcomes:

  • Describe the common causes of conflict.
  • Identify the different stages of conflict.
  • Learn for their own experience of conflict situations to develop strategies to reduce the opportunity for conflict in the future.
  • Describe two forms of communication.
  • Indicate the level of emphasis that can be placed on verbal and non-verbal communication during a conflict situation.
  • Underline the impact that cultural differences may have in relation to communication.
  • Identify the procedural and environmental factors affecting conflict situations and recognise their importance in decision making.
  • Underline the importance of keeping a safe distance in conflict situations.
  • Summarise the methods and actions appropriate for particular conflict situations and that no two situations are same.
  • Explain the use of ‘reasonable force’ as described in law and its limitations and requirements.
  • Identify the causes of communication breakdown and the importance of creating the right conditions for communication to succeed.
  • Utilise three communication models that will assist them in dealing with different levels of conflict.
  • Recognise the behavioural pattern of individuals during conflict.
  • Recognise the warning and danger signals displayed by individuals during a conflict situation including the signs that may indicate the possibility of physical attack.
  • Identify the range of support, both short and long-term, available to those affected by a violent incident.
  • Underline the need to provide support to those directly affected and the wider organisational benefits of this.


FAQs about Conflict Resolution Training

Frequently Asked Questions about conflict resolution training

What is conflict resolution training?

Conflict resolution training (CRT) is a means of providing employees of NHS organisations and providers of NHS services with the skills to spot signs of a potentially violent incident before it escalates. It teaches them how to defuse, prevent and manage an incident without the use of physical restraint. We believe that these skills are a safe and more ethical way to prevent an incident of violence. Physical restraint must be the last resort.

Why is there a particular version of CRT for the NHS?

By its very nature NHS work involves a particularly high level of personal interaction with the public, much of it at close quarters. There are many pressures surrounding the provision of treatment that could result in conflict.

Do you recommend a minimum or maximum number of delegates to a CRT course?

The delivery of CRT benefits from the interaction between the trainer and the delegates and between the delegates themselves. To ensure that this is the case, while also ensuring that the trainer can establish that learning is effective, NHS Protect recommended groups of no less than 12 delegates and no more than 20.

How long should be spent delivering the core learning aims and outcomes?

Based on NHS Protect experience it is recommended that the CRT curriculum requires five hours of contact time to be effective; and this approach is supported by the Health and Safety Executive. 

Can the minimum delivery time be split up into sessions?

We do not recommend this because the learning aims and outcomes benefit from being delivered together. Separating them will increase the length of the training as delegates will need to be refreshed about previous elements before resuming the course. Splitting the sessions up would also lead to delegates being part-trained between delivery and therefore vulnerable during the interim period. This would create a risk to organisations from a liability perspective during those interim periods.

What are the minimum qualifications required to deliver CRT?

NHS Protect recommended that trainers delivering of CRT should have a formal training qualification, although it does not recommend specific courses or suppliers.

How will I know if the CRT that my staff have received is effective?

It is not enough to merely deliver appropriate risk-based CRT to frontline NHS staff, it is crucial that the training is effective and addresses the identified risks. Organisations are expected to monitor, review and evaluate their CRT to ensure that it effective and make improvements to it where appropriate.

How will I know whether a person requires CRT or not?

There is such a wide range of organisation types, settings and job roles in the NHS that there is no simple way of defining whether a post requires CRT or not and what level of training should be delivered. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that individuals and roles are risk-assessed in relation to violence and aggression and this will determine whether CRT is required and to what level.

Who should provide the CRT?

NHS organisations and providers of NHS services can train their staff via in-house trainers or, if appropriate, via private contractors. Those delivering the training should adhere to the NHS Protect guidance to ensure that the appropriate standard of training is achieved.

Should there be refresher CRT?

Yes. The frequency of refresher CRT will be determined by local needs, although NHS Protect recommended that, in the interests of retention of knowledge and personal safety, refresher training should take place no more than three years after delivery of the previous training.

Can CRT be delivered by e-learning?

E-learning may be appropriate to support the delivery of knowledge aspects of CRT but should not be a substitute for the recommended contact time. It is important to be mindful that IT literacy is not an essential requirement for some staff groups requiring CRT.

Can CRT be delivered using a work book?

As with e-learning, a work book can be a useful support in the delivery of knowledge aspects of CRT but should not be a substitute for the recommended contact time.

Can CRT be delivered as part of a broader training day including other training?

CRT can be delivered as a stand alone course, although there are benefits to conflict resolution being integrated into a more holistic approach to communication, customer care and engagement with service users, as these are all transferable skills.

CRT consists of a set of learning outcomes to be delivered to minimum standards. Where these outcomes are also covered by other training, this may be delivered at the same time as CRT, if it can be demonstrated that this can be done without compromising on the quality of training delivery.

For example, it may be that CRT is incorporated as part of a series of training courses based around the Skills for Health UK Core Skills Training Framework.

How is CRT mandated? Will NHS organisations and providers of NHS services be forced to deliver this?

The Health and Safety Act 1974 requires a safe working environment and adequate facilities including appropriate training. Also outcome 14D of the Care Quality Commission’s Essential Standards of Quality and Safety requires staff to have a safe working environment where risks of violence, harassment and bullying are assessed and minimised. Under the NHS Standard Contract, among other things, providers of NHS services were required to adhere to NHS Protect’s security management requirements and standard 3.1 specifically addresses CRT.

Could an overall risk rating for conflict for each organisation be determined, in order to define what approach for CRT is needed?

NHS organisations and providers of NHS services may vary considerably according to factors such as location and demographics. Therefore, prescribing what is appropriate for the roles in each organisation is best done by those who know the most about their organisation, i.e. at a local level.

An overall risk rating for an organisation would not determine who might be harmed and using such a general approach may result in people receiving training that they do not need it or in training not being received by those who need it. The number of reported incidents of violence should not determine whether there is a need for CRT because the number of incidents has no bearing on the risk to staff.

What evidence is there to show that CRT provides benefits?

NHS Protect’s CRT survey found that the vast majority of delegates felt that the training would help them to identify potential conflict situations (95.1%) and manage such incidents more effectively (96.4%). Furthermore, staff said that they felt safer and more secure at work following CRT. Twelve months after receiving the training, 67% of NHS staff surveyed said their working environment felt safer and more secure from violence.

This compares to 47% of NHS staff surveyed before receipt of the training. It is a similar picture in respect of verbal abuse. After CRT, 56% of NHS staff surveyed felt safer from verbal abuse at work, compared to only 43% before the training. In some cases, staff feeling safer and more secure at work will mean the difference between staff leaving the NHS or not. Improved retention of staff will mean better patient care.

How do I know if the training has been effective?

The Conflict resolution training curriculum has now been developed which focuses on learning aims and outcomes. NHS Protect’s expectation was that the training has to achieve positive outcomes and so organisations are expected to monitor, review and evaluate their CRT to ensure that it is effective and make improvements to it where appropriate. All of this has been designed to move away from output-focussed training that sought to merely achieve a ‘tick in the box’.

Will new employees be made to re-do the training when they change jobs?

In cases where new employees have already received CRT from other NHS providers or commissioners, their prior learning may be counted if the training has followed NHS Protect guidance. In such cases a risk assessment should be made of the employee’s present needs before determining whether their prior learning is sufficient for their new role.