“At the University of Bolton, we take great pride in providing a quality, supportive learning environment for our students.”
Professor George E Holmes DL | President & Vice Chancellor
“...tutors are very supportive and you’re not just a student ID number, at this university you are an individual with a name.”
Ellisse Vernon | BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing
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Rarely a week goes by without a headline news story about the NHS being in crisis. This points to some fundamental, systemic issues, not least chronic staffing shortages across the healthcare sector as a whole. Rarely a week goes by without a headline news story about the NHS being in crisis. This points to some fundamental, systemic issues, not least chronic staffing shortages across the healthcare sector as a whole.
We need to re-think the way we’re recruiting and training the future NHS workforce. We need to take stock of how effectively local government and health and education providers are working together to ensure regional skills provision aligns with the changing needs of regional health and social care landscapes.
This means giving both FE and HE much greater involvement in developing workforce strategy. Currently, there is no formal role carved out for education providers within the Integrated Care System (ICS) – the framework established in 2022 that sees local organisations come together, within England’s 42 regions, to deliver ‘joined-up’ health and care services. This seems like a missed opportunity, and, in my opinion, should be reviewed.
In Bolton, we recognised that a closer partnership between the NHS, the University and the College could significantly improve strategic workforce planning.
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust identified the need to improve on-site technical training to meet the needs of future care delivery. And so, for the past four years, the Trust, the College, the University of Bolton, and Bolton Council have been working together on developing a new technical skills-training facility located at the hospital.
Bolton College of Medical Sciences (BCMS), a £40m project funded by the University and the Levelling Up Fund, is currently being built and will open in 2024, training approximately 3,000 learners annually.
The Trust has granted us the space, and together with the University, Bolton College has been entrusted to lead on curriculum development and delivery. This has seen us taking a new approach in mapping the strategic and operational workforce development requirements with the Trust, and in creating a bespoke curriculum response.
We are working across all the Trust’s operational functions, identifying new training and apprenticeship opportunities in everything from nursing and midwifery to leadership and management, digital and IT provision.
This has enabled us to design new pathways that create greater opportunities in healthcare. The Bolton College and University partnership will offer introductions to FE and HE courses, as well as T-levels in Health, apprenticeship and traditional provision at levels 3 through 7, new HTQs, and other commercial CPD provision.
Crucially, it will optimise access and progression, in an attempt to increase the ‘grow-your-own’ culture for the Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) - in turn optimising local employment and career opportunities, and improving standards in local healthcare provision.
BCMS is part of the University of Bolton Group’s vertically integrated model, which includes a STEM Academy, Bolton College, Alliance Learning (a private training provider) and the University itself.
This means that, in essence, a local learner could start with a STEM focused curriculum aged 11, and progress through a technical route into an apprenticeship or traditional degree, with work placements or employment at the hospital or elsewhere within the ICP.
By being located on site, the learning provision at BCMS will be part of the Trust’s operational environment, and College and University teaching staff will be augmented by clinical professionals for both delivery and end-point assessment. This will mean a fully integrated FE/HE/employer delivered and assessed curriculum – a first in Greater Manchester and across the UK clinical and medical sector.
The message is this: there is clear benefit to closer collaboration between local healthcare providers and their FE/HE partners. However, we need a proactive approach in identifying the skills required to deliver future operational strategy and designing and delivering appropriate curriculum response.
Our progress will be followed closely in Greater Manchester – indeed, BCMS is expected to be seen as a blueprint to create similar facilities across the region – but this is a national problem, requiring solutions that reach beyond regional boundaries. We’d be happy to talk to other FE colleges about what they can do to work more closely with their local NHS partners.
Bill Webster, Principal and CEO of Bolton College