One of the region’s largest employers has rolled out an apprenticeship scheme to boost healthcare skills within the workforce.
Gateshead Health Foundation Trust is working in partnership with Gateshead College to deliver the initiative, which aims to increase skill levels of staff who support qualified nurses, physios, occupational therapists and dieticians.
The two organisations came together last year to jointly deliver the programme, which saw an initial group of 12 apprentices embark on a level two health support worker apprenticeship. They have all now completed the course and either secured substantive posts within the trust or progressed to higher education.
Now the partnership has been extended to enable another group of apprentices to learn new skills in an acute hospital setting and develop their career in the NHS.
An influx of new skills is desperately needed, with more nurses and midwives leaving the professional register than joining it, according to figures published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Among the most common reasons for leaving the register was an ageing workforce – highlighting the need for training programmes that upskill the existing workforce and encourage new recruits to enter the profession. Official figures show that unfilled vacancies in the NHS reached 100,000 earlier this year – or one vacancy per 11 posts. At the top of this list were positions for full-time nurses and midwives.
Gareth Forster, learning and development facilitator at Gateshead Health Foundation Trust, said: “The collaborative partnership that we have developed with Gateshead College is providing a fantastic opportunity to upskill those who provide valuable support for nurses, physios and other health professionals. It is also helping us to tackle key skills shortages and provide sustainable healthcare careers for dozens of local people.
“The training enables the apprentices to build successful careers in healthcare and could help them progress to further opportunities and training programmes.”
Employing around 4,200 staff, the trust provides general health services complemented by services in key specialist areas such as gynecology and palliative care. Its facilities are among the best in the country and include a £32m Emergency Care Centre and a £12m Pathology Centre of Excellence.
As well as delivering a clinical healthcare support apprenticeship, the trust delivers a business administration apprenticeship which is also supported by Gateshead College. This enables apprentices to develop skills and knowledge that are vital to working in an administrative role within the health sector.
Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, said: “The collaboration with Gateshead Health Foundation Trust has been extremely successful and on the back of this we’re rolling out the programme to other staff at the hospital. Working in partnership with the trust is not only giving staff vital skills that are making a difference to the local community but is also addressing the skills shortage in the health profession.”