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Revolutionising Healthcare Training in the North East


We're thrilled to be part of a groundbreaking project that's going to transform how we train our future health and social care heroes. Teaming up with top names from the North-East and with support from the Department for Education, we're on a mission to make learning more real and impactful. This is all about giving our students the best experience and making a real difference in our community's healthcare.

Health and social care staff will be able to boost their skills in a simulated hospital setting under a new initiative to meet the needs of a rapidly growing sector. The project is one of a host of projects as colleges across the Tees Valley join forces with North-East organisations to tackle a widening skills gap after securing a £2.5m grant from the Department for Education to meet the needs of the Local Skills Improvement Plan.

The Local Skills Improvement Fund is led by Darlington College, in conjunction with the North East Chamber of Commerce and a host of further education providers in the Tees Valley to meet the needs of the health and social care sector.A multi-million pound Health and Social Care Academy is being developed in a disused ward at the University Hospital of Hartlepool thanks to a partnership with ourselvec and Hartlepool 6th Form College.

A simulated hospital ward suite was first mooted in Hartlepool back in 2018. The finance has now been secured thanks to the Hartlepool Town’s Fund and the Local Skills Improvement Fund.The facility will be instrumental in recruiting and reskilling health and social care staff at a time of burgeoning needs.

Health and social care in Hartlepool carries around 80 vacancies a year and sees an annual turnover of staff of around 8.5 per cent of the 6,000 people working in health care. Across the Tees Valley there are around 7,800 vacancies in the sector. Manned by college lecturers and staff from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, the centre will use the very latest immersive technology to recreate a host of settings and scenarios, from surgery and trauma units to people’s homes where frontline staff often have to work.

Clinical procedures will include virtual births, catheters, blood culture work, heart ECGs and sutures as well as difficult home settings and care homes.The centre will provide level 2-5 qualifications, including apprenticeships and specialist training, for up to 80 people at a time, in non-clinical and clinical procedures, in a safe environment that will also allow people to decide if care is for them.

It will target newcomers over the age of 18 and those considering returning to the sector. There are also hopes that it could be used for schoolchildren looking for work experience.North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust deputy chief people’s officer Gary Wright said: “In an area with a high level of deprivation and an ageing population it is critical that we recognise the need for a sustainable health and social care workforce. Having an academy will help us grow our own talent as well as upskill staff already working in the sector. It will raise ambitions and provide opportunities for the full range of roles no matter where you live. We have to encourage the next generation of workers.” LSIF health and social care project manager Christine Hall said: “Health and social care isn’t just the hospital setting it’s about the whole aspect of care. This project is an exciting opportunity for Hartlepool residents who have worked or would like to explore health and social care.”

The centre is scheduled to be completed by next June and will take its first cohort in September. Elsewhere in the Tees Valley, Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Teesside University, local authorities, adult and social care teams and private sector providers of health and social care services are also working together to support the LSIF scheme.

Colleges are seen as central to improving the digital skills of the sector in areas such as Microsoft Word, Excel and email, with specialist training in bespoke software packages relating to the industry. This is alongside the introduction of virtual reality materials focused on digitising the training.Middlesbrough College and Darlington College are investing in simulated skills delivery within mock workplace environments, with major investment going into both sites.

Darlington College is introducing a health and social care ward, which will include a mock hospital, simulated social care setting and doctor's surgery featuring high tech training items such as digital manakins and care dummies. A similar model is being introduce into Middlesbrough College, including the inclusion of a 360-degree immersive suite.

Darlington College’s strategic projects and skills manager and LSIF project lead Alan Jones said: “We are producing virtual reality materials with local trusts allowing for digital training in environments most students aren’t exposed to. One simulation will focus on risk assessment so students can consider issues around working in people’s homes. This will expose them to the realities of health and social care, teach them resilience skills and help them decide quickly whether the sector is for them.”

Also involved in the skills initiative are the Education Training Collective (ETC) Group and the Learning Curve Group.

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