Tailor made higher learning

Hillingdon Hospital Trust signed a learning agreement on the 19th September 2008 between the Trust Senior Management and Unison union. The Trust agreed to offer Foundation degrees (FD) in Health and Social Care. Eight learners from nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy as well as healthcare and therapy assistants signed up.

The course, provided by Thames Valley University has been running for 2 years and is due to be completed in 2011. Funding for the course was negotiated for and provided by the Union Learning Fund (ULF), Skills for Health, NHS London and the Hospital Trust.

Thames Valley University were chosen as the provider after a thorough selection process and interview by the steering group which included a student, demonstrating a clear commitment to achieving a partnership approach. NHS London provided funding to cover fees and additional running costs.

The Trust allowed students to take time off for the course, gave them real time mentors and virtual support and developed guidelines to support the learners. The Trust also ensured the learners were monitored by a steering group and curriculum group and provided the students with a book grant towards their course books.

As well as an excellent career development opportunity the learners are now being allocated higher competency tasks within the profession. Many of the learners aspire to undertake a BSc Honours and others will be given the opportunity to be appointed to a higher employment post as a result.

Jennifer Chapple, Deputy Director of Education and Training at the Trust, said:

"This FD is providing our staff with two distinct strands of learning. In the first instance they are learning more about themselves and how development can empower them to carry out their roles more effectively. Secondly, they are learning and acquiring in-depth knowledge about service delivery and the patient experience through considering and analysing how the outcomes of their actions or inactions impact on service delivery and the patient experience. The knowledge and skills our staff are developing will contribute to the Trust achieving its objectives, in particular, treatment and care which is, safe, sensitive and responsible to the individual."

Barry Francis, Regional Manager unionlearn SERTUC, said:

"This is great example of a trade union, employer and HEI working together and should encourage other employers to engage with trade union supported higher learning."