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MDX-backed project boosting adult skills among thousands of trainee healthcare workers

12/02/2021
Research by university highlighted the need to improve basic skills in English, maths, science, communication and digital technology among healthcare support workers

Middlesex University and Health Education England (HEE) have unveiled a report on a major project to improve adult Skills for Life in the health and social care workforce.

Two years ago a report by the university highlighted the need to improve basic skills in English, maths, science, communication and digital skills among healthcare support workers hoping to progress into Higher and Degree apprenticeships in health and social care.

Since then HEE has worked on enacting a Skills for Life strategy - which began with a 10 -point plan - to improve the basic adult skills of thousands of workers who hope to become nurses and other health professionals. All students need these skills to be accepted onto or graduate from most higher education courses.

“One real consequence of not continuing to improve Skills for Life among the health and social care workforce would be a failure to recruit all of the 50,000 nurses that we want  and need in the next five years, because if you don’t have English and maths skills and qualifications, you can’t become a Nursing Associate or a Nurse," Dr Finbar Lillis, Middlesex University.

HEE achievements so far include:

  • A Skills for Life network of more than 500 healthcare employers
  • The appointment of seven regional HEE managers with responsibilities for promoting and supporting apprenticeships in the sector, including Skills for Life
  • A new Basic Skills for Life Builder (BKSB) online learning programme, free for health and social care workers. Around 8,000 learners from more than 1,000 employers are currently using the BKSB programme. A wide range of health and social care employers are represented, including large hospital trusts, GP surgeries, residential care homes and health and care staff with local authorities
  • The National Literacy Trust has staged nine online literacy support sessions. 250 employers signed up for these online sessions in writing, reading, speaking and listening between July and September last year
  • 170 delegates from a wide range of health and care employers attended free HEE Skills for Life ‘master classes’ which were held in London, Manchester, Taunton and Birmingham

Dr Finbar Lillis, from Middlesex University who wrote the original Skills for Life report for HEE, said: “Two years ago HEE had ten bullet points from its first meeting with employers - since then they have made massive progress.

“The sector still has lots of work to do but it now feels like Skills for Life is an issue which won’t go away and that HEE is fully committed.

“Building a network of 500 employers with expertise and knowledge to share across the NHS and social care, and who have a determination to tackle this problem, has been perhaps the most positive development.

“There has also been recognition across the sector that this is not just about improving English and maths but that all staff at all levels, need good communication skills to deliver effective person-centred care.

“One real consequence of not continuing to improve Skills for Life among the health and social care workforce would be a failure to recruit all of the 50,000 nurses that we want  and need in the next five years, because if you don’t have English and maths skills and qualifications, you can’t become a Nursing Associate or a Nurse. So it’s not an option and that’s a great thing - because everybody is aware of this fact and is working together to address the issue.”

The report recommends focusing on Digital Skills, using an online interactive learning platform to share skills and learning across the healthcare workforce and stepping up efforts to provide good quality language learning and support (ESOL) for staff whose first language is not English, at all levels.

Jane Hadfield, National Senior Programme Manager – Apprenticeships Health Education England - Talent for Care, said: “We welcome Middlesex Uni’s support in the implementation of our national strategy for this work. Having the support of valued partners like Middlesex Uni really helped us define and develop this strategy.

“We continue to develop innovative support for employers to ensure our apprenticeship programme continues on course despite the pandemic. This includes supporting employees in developing their Skills for Life (numeracy, literacy, digital skills) with around 8,000 learners nationally accessing HEE Talent for Care funded functional skills software.

“These are skills we all need to flourish both in and outside of work and are central to enabling our staff to be the best they can be, fulfil their potential, to ensure our people have the best possible support in their learning, and directly support those who are delivering direct patient care and service.”

Find out more about Healthcare and Social Work at Middlesex

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