Report: Skills For Life In Health And Care – Five goals for improving person-centred care

A new report from Middlesex University finds that “poor adult skills” in the NHS and Social Care workforce get in the way of effective person-centred care and stop people getting on to and succeeding in apprenticeships – particularly in higher and Degree Apprenticeships in Health and Care.

The author of Skills for Life in Health and Care, Dr Finbar Lillis from the university, sets out five goals and actions for a long-term national strategy to address the issue.

Commenting on the report Dr Lillis said: “Poor adult skills means a lack of ‘basic’ skills in English, maths, digital skills and science knowledge and concepts. And a lack of ‘transversal’ (cross-cutting) skills in effective communication and learning, including shared decision making, problem solving, co-operative and self-organising skills.

“With 1.7 million workers, the NHS is the fifth largest employer in the world. Globally, only the US and Chinese military, Walmart and McDonalds are bigger. We have internationally poor levels of adult skills in England and what goes for the workforce in England goes for the NHS.

“The five goals and actions set out in the report are focused on practice. Yes, there is some serious work to do to begin to put things right but there is already great practice out there and a real willingness to share it. Sharing knowledge and skills has to be facilitated proactively and Health Education England can make that happen. As the biggest employer in the UK, the NHS can take a lead on putting things right and show other employers facing the same issues how they could deal with poor adult skills.”

The report concludes that these skills shortages stop health and care workers from operating effectively in multidisciplinary teams, and get in the way of effective professional working and individual career progression. Health and care sector workers need strong transversal skills underpinned by solid basic skills in English, maths, digital and science.

The five goals and actions for a long term strategy are:

  1. Develop and share a common understanding and language for describing basic and transversal skills for person-centred care – define and describe which skills are we talking about.
  2. Gather baseline data about the possession of these skills across the workforce and how they are monitored, recorded and developed – help employers find out who has these skills and which skills need development.
  3. Commit to a whole organisation understanding of how basic and transversal skills are used across roles, occupations and levels –  make sure the whole organisation understands why and how these skills are needed and used.
  4. Ensure employers have access and control of resources and education provision – so employers know what resources and education provision are needed to support basic and transversal skills development.
  5. Facilitate networking between health and care employers and education providers – in creative ways – so employers can find, learn about and share best practice.

Dr Lillis added: “Middlesex, as a university leader in Work Integrated Learning can and should extend its knowledge and understanding to other universities internationally engaged in health and care sector skills development and across other sectors where similar adult skills issues are no doubt present. Health Education England has already committed to act and has organised special events for employers to test planned actions and ensure that employers get what they need. All the evidence from the report shows that ‘knee-jerk’ short-term fixes do not work and that only a measured response to the problem and investment in a long term strategy will address it.”

Commenting on the report, Laura Roberts, Director of Skills Development and Participation, Health Education England said: “HEE welcomes this commissioned research and is pleased to lead the UK in upskilling the workforce in essential Skills for Life (maths, English, IT and more). As the largest employer we are well placed to do this and the apprenticeship agenda has given us the opportunity to really focus on these skills. We are bringing employers together, sharing and showcasing best practice and investing in tailored resource solutions. We look forward to supporting all NHS employers in realising their employees’ potential.”

Download the report Skills for Life in Health and Care.