Healthcare science apprentices in pathology


08 / 12 / 2011

The organisation

Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
has approximately 500 inpatient beds and provides a broad range of general medical and surgical services, including A&E, for over 300,000 people each year. It also provides services for all medical, surgical and child health emergency admissions.

The pathology service has around 140 staff and deals with approximately 1800 requests a day in blood sciences. On average each request contains around four tests and each test can consist of up to 10 analyses.

What we did and why

Existing staff within the pathology department had generally left school following their GCSE’s and didn’t necessarily possess qualifications of a higher level.

Initially the trust:

  • identified workforce development needs
  • spoke to staff who were enthusiastic about their career development
  • discussed the apprenticeship scheme with the training and development teams
  • contacted the area apprenticeship coordinator within the strategic health authority (SHA) for details of training and funding options.

Discussions with the learning and development department took place around a new NVQ course, and the department then found suitable provision. As the trust was new to developing apprentices within pathology and very few providers were known, the trust contacted The National Apprenticeship Service to look for companies that could deliver the programme.

How we did it

Following a tender exercise, a company called TDR Training from Gateshead were chosen to deliver the programme. Funding was used from the Department of Health (DH) and the SHA to meet training costs.

The trust then held an induction day and enrolled seven staff onto the programme at Bands 2 and 3.

The NVQ level 3 in laboratory and associated technical activities is delivered on site, using in-house assessors to minimise disruption within departments. The use of an e-portfolio system has reduced the amount of assessor visits and time spent on assessments. The web based system allows students to upload work onto a computer and assessors to check the work then provide feedback to the apprentices. Progress is measured every 12 weeks and the e-portfolio system also provides a mechanism for:

  • daily contact with the assessor if required
  • assessment planning
  • uploading of assignments and evidence
  • candidate and manager progress monitoring
  • access to BTEC training materials which provides additional background knowledge for the NVQ.

Assessments are carried out and regular feedback from assessors enables managers to monitor staff progression and identify any additional support that may be required to achieve successful outcomes.

Results and next steps

Expected outcomes from the apprenticeships are:

  • nationally recognised qualifications
  • increase in abilities
  • greater understanding of the working environment and role
  • increased confidence to deliver roles
  • scope to develop new members of staff to help sustain the workforce long-term
  • a training programme which allows existing members of staff to mentor colleagues and new employees in the department.

The programme to date is proving successful and the trust is looking at a 2012 cohort.

Tips for other trusts

  • Think carefully about the number of apprentices you have at one time, bearing in mind the study time required.
  • Remember you need internet connection to allow your apprentices to take their exams online.

Contact details

Helen Botwood, Pathology Support Manager 

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