Case Study

Higher Development Award: A personal development programme for support workers

Find out how NHS organisations across London and the South are supporting their healthcare support workers' personal development.

23 April 2021

The Higher Development Award (HDA) is a personal development programme for support workers that enables clinical and non-clinical support workers to build on their knowledge. It gives them tools to increase awareness of how their role can improve patient outcomes. The programme is free and has been designed to meet the ever-growing needs of complex health and social care systems and to enable healthcare support workers (HCSW) to experience and understand leadership, decision making and problem solving.

Key benefits and outcomes

  1. The HDA aims to equip support workers with the skills, techniques, tools and knowledge to improve personal confidence and capability, unlock leadership skills, enhance functional skills and improve patient experiences and outcomes.
  2. The programme results in either a level one, two or three Institute of Leadership & Management Certificate in Leadership and Management alongside the HDA qualification and Functional Skills Qualifications, if not already achieved.
  3. 100 per cent of learners felt that their objectives for attending the course had been fully or mostly met.
  4. Key tangible benefits include an increase in confidence and self-realisation that support workers can develop within their roles and make improvements to their service areas.

What the region did

The HDA was developed in 2016 with education and training leads and HCSWs in North West London. They wanted something to follow the Care Certificate for support workers and to bridge the gap between completing the certificate and moving on to progression opportunities within their clinical practice.

Many HCSWs want to progress in their careers or become more knowledgeable in their current roles. The learning outcomes of the course focus on personal learning needs which underpin the organisational pathways for all clinical and non-clinical support staff. The programme can be accessed by learners who may have various career or role aspirations but don’t have the confidence or self-efficacy to consider other study options. ‘Being the best I can be whilst acknowledging my potential’ is the tagline for the programme.

It has been funded by Health Education England since its development, with several NHS trusts hosting the programme. During 2019 a more sustainable model of funding and delivery was sought with Lambeth College, so a transition of the course has been made to them.

What is the Higher Development Award?

There are five modules included in the programme with functional skills and coaching being a core part of the course. The programme is run over six days across a six-month period and a key part learners undertake is the service improvement project. This involves establishing a project that they can work on and implement within their area to make improvements, they then present this back to their peer group at the end of the programme to complete the learning cycle and build confidence.

The programme results in either level one, two or three Institute of Leadership & Management Certificate in Leadership and Management alongside the HDA qualification and Functional Skills Qualifications, if not already achieved.

Overcoming obstacles

Learners joined the programme for a variety of reasons, including the need to achieve their functional skills qualifications, to build confidence and knowledge of the working environment and to develop their careers with a focus on transitioning to the other levels of the HDA and ultimately into nursing associate or nursing roles.

Some of the key considerations learners considered before joining the programme included:

  • Level of flexibility they were allowed in order to remain in their role while studying. There is only six study days and additional learning is undertaken in their own time.
  • How the programme will help them to continue to provide the best possible care to patients.
  • What progression opportunities the programme could provide and how it could offer a platform to take that next step.
“London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust is actively supporting any HCSW development and it was no question that the HDA provides a fantastic learning opportunity to enable learners using the HDA and its elements for upskilling of existing skills and learning new ones” – Ralph Schafer, Practice Lead

Results and benefits

The programme has become a sought-after development programme with up to two intakes per year of about 20 learners per cohort. Since the programme was developed, more than 300 learners have gone through it in London and it is now expanding into other regions.

The notable benefits to support workers completing the programme include time management skills, increased confidence, understanding of learning styles, peer support, preparation for education to progress and personal development. These are all useful to the support workers in their areas and it also prepares them for potentially completing the trainee nursing associate programme or apprenticeship opportunities.

The programme evaluation shows 100 per cent of learners felt that their objectives for attending the course had been fully or mostly met. The course content, teaching methods and the continuous processes of self-reflection have yielded good outcomes including improved capability, increased confidence and self-belief. The HDA has facilitated some participants to progress onto more senior roles.

In December 2020, the programme won the Nursing Times award for Best Workplace for Learning and Development. Then in March 2020, Lambeth college won the bid for innovation funding for employment and skills of £200,000 from the London Mayor to support the delivery of the course - a first for a health-based training programme.

Next steps

In January 2020, a scoping exercise to scale up the programme across the country began with the HEE Talent for Care team. A national steering group has been implemented and initial discussions regarding funding and modelling elsewhere has begun.

The roll out of the programme has been very successful across London and this has spread into Wessex, where they have built on learning from the London project and developed a community of regions collaborating on how it can now be best developed across Wessex as well. They have funding for two cohorts which covers course fees, awarding body fees, a co-ordinator for the project and administrative support.

Alongside this there are colleagues working together to adapt the programme to expand across the country.

“Implementing a service project in their clinical areas and this is the most important element of the programme as they don’t realise that they can come up these ideas and implement from start to finish to make improvements in their work area. This is what gives the learners the confidence boost they need for their personal development” – Cess Quiambao, Head of Apprenticeships

Takeaway tips

  1. Understand what is already available within your organisation to support HCSW education and training.
  2. Establish who you need to partner with and which providers you can source in your locality in order to deliver the HAD programme.
  3. Ensure you have a dedicated project coordinator and informative communications to share across your organisation to engage HCSW and their managers.

Find out more about this work on the Higher Development Award website.