Delivering the Recovery was the name and theme of a recent three-day NHS Confed Conference. The virtual event involved expert speakers and 5,000 health and care leaders reflecting on the impact of Covid-19 and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
The Open University (OU) ran a session for the conference in which Phil Kenmore, Director of Business Development for the Public Sector, and Professor Samantha Baron, Head of School, Health, Well Being and Social Care at the OU, discussed the current education provision for nursing and social care and changing future needs. There was a particular focus on the Nursing Academy education model.
Joining Phil and Samantha part way through the seminar were Louise Norris, Director of Workforce, Organisational Development and Communications, and Dr Mercia Spare, Chief Nurse, both from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust. The OU works in partnership with the Trust, delivering learning at its Nursing Academy.
Samantha said the pace of change has been huge over the past 18 months, for employers and for training providers. She explained that the pandemic has taught people about the value of health, wellbeing and social care and the need to be future-focused. “It’s also then put a spotlight on the issue of how we train and educate people for the future, to support people to have good health and wellbeing. If anything has come out of Covid, it’s the recognition that we need to invest very heavily in nursing and allied health professionals and social care and social work.”
As a result, employers are looking to improve the skills of their existing workforce and are seeking out new ways of upskilling and reskilling. Digital learning and blended learning, two types of learning that the OU has pioneered, have become very popular during the pandemic. Phil said innovations in technology, such as augmented reality and simulated practice, are shaping a new approach to learning in the nursing and social care professions. There has also been a drive to improve practitioners’ digital skills so that they can use digital technology in their everyday practice.
In the session, Phil talked about the emergence of blended learning nursing degrees, such as that delivered by the OU programme in the London and the South/South West region, in partnership with Middlesex University, London and University of the West of England.
Health Education England have taken a very clear view from day one that they want that programme to be different, they want it to lead on giving people digital skills, giving the nurses of the future the digital skills they need to work in the health service of the future, the OU is uniquely placed to help employers transition into a more digital future.Phil Kenmore, Director of Business Development for the Public Sector, The Open University
Dr Mercia Spare, Chief Nurse at Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust says the Nursing Academy partnership with the OU is helping the Trust overcome historic staff shortages and develop the skills needed now and in the future.
Mercia explained: “Growing our own enables us to have a pipeline of nurses that are engaged and sign up to the values of our organisation. We are able to provide career nursing pathways.”
It is also helping the Trust broaden access to learning and attract a more diverse pool of talent, two things that are core to the OU’s mission and strategic vision.
I’m really proud that the Trust decided to invest in the Academy and that we have a pipeline of people that are very committed and want to give back to their local communityLouise Norris, Director of Workforce, Organisational Development and Communications, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust