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Associate feature: Digital solutions for Scotland's workforce

Associate feature: Digital solutions for Scotland's workforce

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, much has been written about the long-term consequences of living in a society dealing with Coronavirus. The impact on the health and care sector in Scotland, for staff, for patients and for carers has been profound and tragic. As Acting Chief Executive of NHS Education for Scotland (NES) during this time, it has been my role to lead the NHS Board responsible for educating and training NHS Scotland’s workforce. As an organisation, we have had to be fleet of foot in developing new ways of working, not just for our own staff, but for both the wider health and care workforce and citizens in Scotland. This has been reflected in our work over the past five months.

Challenge and Response

It has long been a key principle that education and training needs to follow and support the service. During the first phase of the pandemic, it became clear that we would need to pause substantial areas of NES’ routine business, and devote considerable energy to the provision of educational resources and to the redeployment of staff and learners, to support colleagues on the front-line.

Much of our educational provision is based on workplace learning. So we did a substantial amount of work with partners in NHS Boards, Universities, Royal Colleges, Regulators and the other devolved nations to mitigate as much as possible the impact of the pandemic on learners and on our training pipelines and workforce supply. However, as for all sectors, this has been disrupted by the pandemic.

At the same time, it became clear that as NES rapidly got used to a completely new way of working, supported by home working, remote meetings, and a gear change in online to the delivery of education, there was a need to engage in new areas of business for the organisation. NES has adapted not only by creating a large number of new Covid-19 educational resources, but also by leading the development of a number of new projects of which I am very proud.

Our Digital team worked with partners to produce a Covid-19 Assessment application. This allows clinical assessment data to be collected at the point of care, in real-time and in a structured format that can be used across paramedic, emergency department, specialist assessment and treatment areas. The app was rolled out in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and will soon be rolled out in other Boards across the country.

NES was also responsible for the Covid-19 Accelerated Recruitment Portal (CARP). This was a major piece of work to coordinate, on behalf of Scottish Government, an accelerated recruitment process for students and members of the public with appropriate experience to enter the workforce to support health and care services. We had over 40,000 expressions of interest through the portal, in two tranches, and have undertaken pre-employment processing to help the system where there was greatest need.

Our NES Digital Service team also helped the Scottish Government develop the SMS Shielding Service to get groceries and medication delivered to the homes of people who were shielding. The service registered over 118,000 people in Scotland and delivered over 915,000 grocery boxes.

The Future

So what does all of this mean for the future of NHS Scotland’s workforce? Without doubt, the consequences will be far-reaching and its impact will be long-lasting, perhaps fundamentally changing the nature of how we provide some services. As an organisation, we are mindful of the potential for continuing changes in clinical capacity, the new ways of delivering care that will be required, and the new skills that we will be asked to support.

The pace, shape and scale of the recovery of clinical services will be fundamental to our work on postgraduate education going forward across the professions - including that which is commissioned from higher education institutes. Similarly, our workforce supply pipelines in many areas depend on undergraduate activity in the university sector which may suffer disruption in a number of areas. We will continue to work in partnership with our many stakeholders, including NHS Boards, Universities, Royal Colleges and Regulators as we navigate our way to recovery.

The past five months have been some of the most professionally challenging I’ve ever known and we should not underestimate the challenges ahead. However, some of the changes to our services, particularly around digital developments, collaborative working, and greater flexibility in approach have been extremely positive. We need to ensure that the recovery and renewal of our education and training is adaptable and I believe the past five months have shown what we are capable of. I also remain confident in the ability of our incredible workforce in dealing with this crisis and continue to be enormously proud to be part of the NHS

This piece was sponsored by NHS Education for Scotland

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