Educating and training our people for the future

Weekly webinars have been just one of the ways the Digital Nurse Network has developed the online skills of general practice nurses across the country and build a digital-ready workforce in primary care.

In the first phase of the COVID-19 response, the NHS had to put many formal training pathways and placements on hold so that everyone could focus on the immediate priority of supporting patients. Now, employers, line managers and supervisors must once again create the time and space for the training and development of our people, and our future colleagues, with a renewed emphasis on the importance of flexible skills and building capabilities rather than staying within traditionally-defined roles.

I’m a second-year medical student at Birmingham University, and when coronavirus hit earlier this year, like many other students, we were told our exams were cancelled. We were, however, offered the chance to train as an NHS 111 call assessor – and I’m very pleased I did. It’s a massive reward when you know you’ve helped someone, especially when they thank you at the end of the call and say they’re going to pray for you. Even as doctors in training – all we want to do is help people to the best of our ability.

Medical student & 111 call handler, West midlands

This is expected to include:

Maintaining education to grow the future workforce: Employers should fully integrate education and training into their plans to rebuild and restart clinical services, releasing the time of educators and supervisors to continue growing our workforce; and supporting expansion of clinical placement capacity during the remainder of 2020/21; and also providing an increased focus on support for students and trainees, particularly those deployed during the pandemic response.

For medical trainees, employers should ensure that training in procedure-based competencies is restored as services resume and are redesigned to sustain the pipeline of new consultants in hospital specialties.

Continuing professional development: During 2020/21 employers must make sure our people have access to continuing professional development, supportive supervision and protected time for training. Employers have received new funding to support the continuing professional development of nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, equivalent to £1,000 per person over three years. Employers will need to support this investment through backfilling staff time during training.

Support for clinical placements: To support employers in educating and training the next general of professionals, HEE is establishing a £10m fund to drive increased placement capacity for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, and to support the development of technology-enhanced clinical placements.

Expanding e-learning: In 2020/21, HEE will further develop its e-learning materials, including simulation, building on the offer provided in response to COVID.

Investing in online education: From January 2021, several universities across England will start delivering a pre-registration blended learning nursing degree programme, commissioned by HEE. The programme aims to increase the appeal of a nursing career by widening access and providing a more flexible approach to learning, using current and emerging innovative and immersive technologies. HEE will also pursue this blended learning model for entry to other professions.

An additional starting point for nursing degrees – making a total of three intakes per year – responds to the surge in interest in, and applications to, nursing degrees as well as the demand from the NHS.