County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust - healthcare sciences in schools

Students at science fair

14 / 12 / 2012

Since 2006, County Durham and Darlington has run a programme called the ‘William Harvey Project’ (Health Sciences into Schools Project) which is aimed at targeting young students with curiosity and enthusiasm about how science is applied in the NHS. 

It was set up to link the hospitals in County Durham and Darlington to give students an opportunity to learn about sciences in various hospital departments, hopefully encouraging them to consider healthcare science as a career.  The project is based in the three main hospitals in County Durham and Darlington and fully supports the educational development of young people in the area.

How we did it

The William Harvey Project is a one year programme for students aged between 14 and 16. Initial contact is made with local schools through using leaflets which explain the project, targeting students who have a keen interest in science. If students are interested they are invited to complete an application form and talk to their parents about the project.

Once accepted, students are then invited early in Year 10 to an inaugural event to celebrate the start of the programme and to learn Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation.

Each year the project receives four children from each of the partner schools into the various labs and for a week students spend time in a number of different healthcare science environments (usually transfusion, infection control, radiography, physiotherapy and pharmacy). 

The programme guarantees the students a wide range of work experience in the hospital setting. In addition to the clinical supervision, students have the opportunity to undertake simulated learning on mannequin based workstations supervised by clinical teaching fellows. At a later stage students are supported with their applications for training or university. Students are encouraged to talk to their classmates about their experiences and what they have learned.

Results and next steps

Feedback from students has been excellent. All students who have completed the programme have said they enjoyed it and some have changed their initial career choice as a direct result of participating in the project i.e. from nursing to a biomedical setting. Feedback suggests students gained most satisfaction from being involved in hands-on workstations doing tasks such as cannulation, phlebotomy and suturing. Allowing students to undertake these tasks also contributed to increasing their confidence. A number of students have said that they can now link the skills that they learn at school to the workplace, for example teamwork and the need for effective communication. 

The organisation

County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation is one of the largest integrated care providers in England, serving a population of around 600,000 people. The trust has been listed in the CHKS 40 top hospitals for the last five years, and was named as one of Dr Foster's Trusts of the Year in 2009.

The Trust has been an integrated acute and community services provider since 2011 and currently has a workforce of over 8,000.


Deborah Nicholson, Widening Participation Officer,

Dr Julie Cox, Clinical Lead,  

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