National campaign launched to support a culture of learning in the NHS

Learning for life

07 / 8 / 2013 Midnight

The ‘Learning for Life’ national campaign has been launched to promote and support a culture of learning in the NHS. This includes helping staff to maintain general aptitudes in maths, English, IT and other areas.

Evidence shows that a strong learning culture which supports these broader skills can improve health outcomes for patients (1). It also helps employees in their personal development, career progression and job satisfaction (1).

The Social Partnership Forum, which is running the campaign, is today promoting a detailed online Learning for Life Toolkit to NHS organisations throughout England. The toolkit gives organisations the advice and tools they need to develop high quality local learning programmes, with an emphasis on support staff (pay bands 1-4). They can also access case studies, business case summaries, posters, and other campaign materials to help them increase awareness, interest and access among staff locally.

The NHS is already working hard to ensure its staff not only meet regulated standards but also have the compassion, good communication skills and other attributes to deliver high quality care. The importance of developing these attributes has been strongly emphasised in the Francis and Cavendish reviews, and most recently in Professor Don Berwick's review into patient safety.

The campaign will emphasise the particular benefit of putting learning within the context of the workplace. In recent research, the overriding majority of learners cited accessibility, convenience and familiarity as key advantages to workplace learning (2). Workplace learning can also improve patient safety, help engage staff and boost morale.

Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Health Minister and chair of the national Social Partnership Forum, Dr Dan Poulter said: 

“Workplace learning is hugely important - it helps NHS staff gain valuable skills and experience.

“We know making sure the right development opportunities are available also helps staff stay motivated to provide the very best care for patients. Employers should use these campaign materials to help support a stronger culture of learning and ongoing personal and professional development in our NHS, which will benefit both patients and staff.”

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, added:

"NHS Employers welcomes the opportunity to work with our partners to deliver the Learning for Life campaign. The NHS faces a number of challenges and here is just one way we can really make a difference for staff and for patients. Workplace learning clearly plays an important role in improving staff skills and experience, supports staff engagement and motivation and helps improve patient care. We know NHS employers and their trade union partners feel the same and hope they find the toolkit and supporting campaign materials useful in helping them to embed a culture of learning at work in their organisation."

Christina McAnea, chair of the NHS trade unions and UNISON head of health, said:

"The NHS trade unions give their full support to the workplace learning campaign. We know that when staff have access to good quality appraisal, learning and skills training, and are properly equipped to undertake their job role, this has a positive impact on the patient experience and the quality of health outcomes. This campaign will encourage employers and trade unions to work together to promote learning for all staff – particularly those in the lower pay bands. It will help to ensure that staff have the right skills for the job and the confidence to act in their patients’ best interests."

Jane Hadfield, assistant director of the Human Resource & Development Directorate at North Bristol NHS Trust said:

“We are delighted to be part of this project which has brought many partners around the table working together on a toolkit designed with the support of workplace learning in mind. The opportunity to map all resources together into one easy-to-use resource is really helpful and I am sure it will be an asset to anyone interested in, or involved in, workplace learning – whether you are a manager, union learning representative, workplace teacher, mentor – or a learner. The opportunities and benefits of working in partnership are enormous, with the opportunity it affords to mobilise the wealth of support and expertise that is available.” 

The Social Partnership Forum (SPF) consists of NHS Employers, health unions and the Department of Health, working together to discuss, debate and involve partners in the development and implementation of the workforce implications of policy. Last year the SPF asked NHS Employers to work with these partners and Skills for Health to develop this campaign.

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