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Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Sally Corbett

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust    
Senior Research Health Psychologist


Dr Sally CorbettWhy did you decide to send your staff to Northumbria University?
The Department of Health Improving Working Lives Standard have asked NHS Trusts to produce evidence that they have challenged traditional working patterns, involved staff in the design and development of better, flexible working practices in line with National Service Frameworks and new clinical governance frameworks and provided all staff with accessible training and development packages. In response to this we conducted a review of staff learning needs by surveying 2500 Trust staff. Respondents wanted:

- Flexible access (for shifts and rotas)
- Equal access irrespective of status
- Matched to individual learning level & pace
- Matched to the level of work experience
- Relevant to individual practice & team tasks
- Linked with relevant disciplines & agencies
- Leads to positive change in practice
- Academic credit

The Trust were also seeking to provide flexible education and training programmes with minimal release time. More important we wanted staff to develop skills to empower them to learn from practice and make changes, contributing to the ethos of a 'learning organisation'.  The Flexible Learning Centre at Northumbria University were invited to work with us to develop a degree and Masters programme to be delivered on Trust sites.

Which programme/course did they do?
Professional Practice Award

How will completion of the course benefit your staff?
The Programme is delivered in-house, projects agreed with line managers are part of the role of the staff undertaking the programme and lead to changes in practice that often enhance their working environment. As the learning is work-based the amount of release time is limited to a maximum of 4½ days for each 60 credit programme which makes this feasible for line managers to agree. It is delivered locally reducing travel cost and time.

The learning process maps onto the Department of Health (DH) Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) and the Health Professions Council Continuing Professional Development (CPD) criteria.

All staff are required to demonstrate competencies required for their job, opportunities for development in their role, and activities they have undertaken to achieve new skills and knowledge, as part of their appraisal and to identify suitable candidates for advancement.  The portfolio produced for final submission demonstrates all the required criteria for KSF appraisal and the level at which they have been achieved. The learning contract and managing own learning modules provide a reflective account that captures how people have used the workplace to find learning opportunities and allows learners to identify future learning needs. The CPD module has enabled us to accredit reflection on and transfer of learning into practice for CPD activities undertaken in-house or sought externally to meet a particular learners needs.

What has been the impact on your organisation?
The programme is a integral to the HR staff development strategy. It has offered accessible HE to all members of staff, including those often missed in staff development initiatives such as administration or estates staff. It is part of our drive to ensure that nursing staff are working towards a degree. The programme will be incorporated into a structured talent management initiative to develop staff in post.

It has led to greater familiarisation with the DH and Trust policies and hundreds of quality improvement projects. When evaluated work based projects were found to have improved:

- Patient care
- Working lives
- Implementation of DH and Trust policies
- Resource use
- Interprofessional working

Have you had any feedback from staff members?
Staff have participated in an evaluation of the programme carried out by the Trust R&D department as well as end of programme evaluation and programme review.

The pedagogical model is challenging and staff take a while to 'get it'. Having primarily undertaken vocational training, many learners find more effective critical appraisal and study skills need to be learned. They often find undertaking work based learning stressful, especially if they are senior managers, as they have a greater fear of failure. Work based learning is especially susceptible to effects of sudden organisational restructuring necessitating changes in the focus of the study and project proposals.

However, staff completing the programme find they learn the critical (inquiry and appraisal) and practical skills (such as presentation and report writing) valued at a higher level in the organisation. They also develop their ability to be reflective practitioners which enhances their learning and gives them the skills to manage their professional development for life.