A career pathway leading to a qualified assistant practitioner role

Carer and older man

13 / 01 / 2012

Following workforce analysis, the senior nursing team at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust identified that gaps in the trust’s workforce structure needed to be addressed to allow career progression of the band 3 and 4 support workforce. They recognised the need to develop a clear career pathway for support staff and so, in partnership with the University of Leeds developed a one year course which would progress staff to assistant practitioner level.

The organisation 

What we did and why

How we did it

Next steps

Tips for trusts


The organisation

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe and has a reputation as a centre of excellence for medical research and education. The trust is located over six sites across the Leeds area and offers many specialist service areas. It is home to the Yorkshire regional transplant service, the St James’s Institute of Oncology and is a national site for adult liver transplantation.

What we did and why  

To ensure the continued provision of high-quality patient care, the retention and development of their workforce and taking account the impact of current financial pressures, the trust used workforce analysis to identify where changes needed to be made. Clear evidence emerged which demonstrated the lack of a clear career pathway for support staff in band 3 onwards. The critical care team was identified as an area that could benefit from a redesigned workforce and the development of an assistant practitioner role.

How we did it

The trust approached the SHA to seek funding for the development of the role and subsequent training costs. Work was co-ordinated by the lead nurse who used a number of tools and resources to develop both core and specific competencies for the role. Examples of these include: 

The trust used the information gathered to develop a competency-based job description specifically for the assistant practitioner role.
Working in partnership with the University of Leeds, the trust developed a modular one year course which includes access to a named tutor. The course requires each student to attend clinical training days within the hospital to gain practical experience and to work through the required clinical competencies whilst being supported by mentors.  

The trust used a framework developed by the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, known as the Calderdale Framework which sets out a process to address cultural change, educational requirements and governance arrangements to complete the development process for the new roles. The framework also assisted with recruiting suitable band 3 individuals to the cohort of trainees. To integrate the assistant practitioner role into the existing workforce, the trust used internal networks to communicate their aims and to discuss the benefits, gain solutions to possible obstacles and identify future developmental initiatives. 

Next Steps

The evaluation process has not been fully developed at this stage as the first cohort consisted of a small number of trainees, five in total that finished their training in the autumn of 2011. The trust and the university issued the trainees with questionnaires, the results of which are currently being analysed. The trust is looking to formalise the feedback process in the future.

The trust has formed a focus group to look at the development of the evaluation package for the second cohort of 16 of trainees that started in September 2011. Their intention is to continue to apply the Calderdale Framework for future development of the role.

The following benefits have been identified:

  • staff have an active, well defined career pathway. 
  • staff have been set core/specific competencies and a clear competency-based job description.
  • creating job opportunities and investment in staff training and development increases the recruitment and retention of staff.

The trust intends to develop the role further and is planning to use assistant practitioners in other areas such as A&E, coronary care, theatre recovery and the medical admissions units. The following initiatives are also being developed to further enhance the career pathway:  

  • the trust has just completed work on bridging modules to allow qualified assistant practitioners to move through to a nursing course.
  • a team of educators consisting of two band 5 and one band 6 nursing staff whose role will be to support trainee and qualified assistant practitioners with support through:
    • training
    • liaising with the university
    • support for team mentors
    • support for managers in clinical training setting.

Tips for trusts

Use workforce planning to identify where the assistant practitioner role would benefit both individuals and the organisation.

  • Communicate with all staff and involve them in the development process to demonstrate their value to the process and organisation.
  • Identify a leader for the project to co-ordinate with the key groups.
  • Work in close partnership with the education provider.
  • Ensure there is an active support network available for trainees and mentors.
  • Use your internal networks to ensure open communications and the sharing of knowledge.





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