NHSU consultation event

Thinktank, Millennium Point, Birmingham


A personal report by Rod Ward

This is a personal report of my experience of the event. For official information visit the NHSU web site at: http://www.nhsu.nhs.uk where you can download a copy of the development plan which was under discussion at this event & make your own contributions to the debates.

Topics & Discussion

The meeting was opened by Vivien Martin a member of the NHSU design and implementation team, who set out the format for the day and introduced other team members. She set out the purposes which included NHSU hearing the ideas of those present and helping to shape their plans and progress with emphasis on what NHS staff are saying and how this could underpin improvements in patient care. An introductory video was then shown entitled "Investing in people" with short clips of Bob Fryer (NHSU Chief Exec) & staff giving short comments on the potential benefits. This included lots of nice phrases and tied in with NHS "New ways of working" proposals.

This was followed by a short discussion amongst groups of 8-10 delegates around each table stimulated by a "Learning Mat". These consisted of a series of quotes, ideas and questions printed on A2 size sheets which we were invited to write our ideas on for later collection. This was quite a good way of stimulating discussion amongst varied delegates most of whom had never met before and giving some focus to discussions. Groups were then invited to feedback comments and questions from their discussions. These included;

A presentation was then given by Tony Laurance (Director of Operations, NHSU) who described the origins of NHSU in a Labour Manifesto and the development with a small team to the current stage. He said that a strategic plan would be issued in spring 2003 with a launch in Autumn 2003. Consideration was given to the concept of a "Corporate University" and what this might mean both in terms of reform of learning but also it's part in the reform of the NHS. He touched on plans for full university status - but sidestepped later questions on this.

He described the potential size of the NHSU with no defined campus as a largely virtual organisation working with a distance learning (& largely elearning) model, and some issues in reaching out to staff with a devolved structure and network of local bases. The plan is to serve everyone who works for the NHS, including contracted staff, patients and carers and social care staff (although little detail was available about this), and touched on the role of "expert patients" and using NHSU resource to enhance self care.

The presentation included a list of the 8 guiding principles and focused choice and equity, stressing the intention of providing more for those who currently have less educational provision and opportunity, tying in with the skills escalator and emphasising the multidisciplinary and multiprofessional learning opportunities.

Tony briefly described the initial work on programme development, including using work already underway in FE & HE and distributing this. It is likely that the first programmes will included an NHS induction pack aimed to enhance the experience for the 140,000 staff joining the NHS each year. he also raised issues about the advice and support which will be needed for learners which will include; on-line, telephone and local face to face systems (he was not able to explain how clinical staff who already have difficulty finding enough time for current students are to act as mentors for the even wider range and greater numbers of students envisaged). It is planned to ensure credits can be obtained for learning which has been quality assured within a qualification and accreditation framework (although little detail was available about this), and the increasing use of Foundation Degrees for all staff without degree level qualifications.

Future development would be influenced by training needs analysis, in conjunction with appraisals and personal development plans with input from Workforce Development Consortia (WDCs) and a proposed "Learning Needs Observatory", and with local NHS training departments becoming part of the NHSU.

A variety of questions were raised from the audience including; protected learning time, elearning, local delivery, student support, University status, research, library provision, funding (learning & skills councils) although most were described as interesting or useful and "can we take that away and look at it" with little in the way of specific answers although it was stated that most courses etc. would incur a charge for either individual or employer, although there would be some subsidy.

A second learning mat exercise was used to try to identify stages in "learning journeys" which may be followed by NHS staff and the challenges these may provide, which developed into wider discussion of many of the issues already raised.

A range of further opportunities to contribute to the debate were offered including a "consultation toolkit" containing all of the materials used during the day.

Networking, Venue & Social

There was quite a varied group of attendees, many from NHS training organisations and a high proportion from F.E. institutions (mostly in the West Midlands) and some from HE. There were good opportunities to meet and discuss a variety of issues both related to NHSU and wider health and social care education issues.

The event was held at "Thinktank" a suite of discussion rooms at Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham. Finding this interestingly venue (which includes an IMAX cinema, University of the New Age & various others ventures), was not easy in the Birmingham rush hour, but once into the building it was reasonably easy to find the well appointed meeting rooms. There was good audiovisual support for speakers and contributions from the attendees, but coffee seemed to be in short supply.

There were no organised breaks from 09.30 to 12.30 which meant that people were nipping out for coffee & loos (and a cigarette in my case) during the group discussions, which led to some interesting networking, but may have limited achievement of group discussion topics.

Lunch was a nice cold buffet.

General comments

The day was quite useful as a consultation exercise - it is to be hoped that the NHSU team will be able to answer some of the issues raised in their strategic plan.

The format was quite good at encouraging discussion and question and the learning mats were an interesting innovation.

I feel that the NHSU proposals have the potential to help the NHS along the road towards becoming a "learning organisation" however there are still a great many hurdles along the way, which need to be addressed more fully before the launch - the risk is that the NHSU and it's educational offerings will be seen as second rate and primarily about adult education (numeracy literacy etc.) rather than true education for health and social care staff. There was also little or no discussion of the elearning platform and techniques which will form a major part of the offerings from the NHSU.

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If you have comments or would like to find out more about the activities listed above please mail me. Rod@RodSpace.co.uk

Page created: 14.1.03

Page last updated: 3.9.03