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  • Health Education England releases draft widening participation strategy Posted on 02 September 2014

    To address widening participation in the NHS is a complex and difficult job – the range of professions, the range of organisations involved and the range of priorities responding to different local needs.  However, Health Education England (HEE) (who are responsible for ensuring the NHS has the right staff) has attempted to pull it all together and has drafted a strategy to widen participation by using their significant resources (both in terms of staff and commissioning leverage). 

    There are significant implications for higher education as much of the development and investment in the healthcare workforce is enabled and achieved through higher education delivery.  HEE will, through its commissioning function and relationships with universities seek to widen participation.  This approach will enable the development of more long-term partnerships between key partners such as schools, universities and NHS organisations to collaborate and design a progressive suite of interventions rather than one-off. 

    The key goals of this strategy are to:

    • Improve monitoring and reporting of widening participation activities
      This includes ensuring that WP is a key theme in all relevant education and workforce guidance and planning developments, all education programmes will monitor WP data, there will be an annual report and analysis of activity compared to a baseline, and they will work with others (such as OFFA and HESA) to enhance the data.
    • Enhance further the visibility and targeting of health careers information, advice and guidance
    • Increase, through research and evaluation, the understanding and evidence of what works in relation to widening participation developments in healthcare education and workforce development.
      With involvement of key stakeholders (Professional Regulators, HEFCE, OFFA, Medical Schools Council, Council of Deans of Health and 
other education providers) they will develop a research programme to investigate at least three priority issues related to widening participation in healthcare education – acting and investing on actions to address their findings. With these partners they will also support the development and promote the use of a framework to help guide evaluation of any NHS supported widening participation developments.
    •  Increase collaborative approaches in supporting outreach activities.
      This will include interventions that start engaging children, young people and adults much earlier.  They will identify, encourage and support models of engagement, between local NHS employers, education providers and stakeholders, relevant to local context and geography, providing outreach programmes aimed at promoting access to healthcare education programmes.  Also a single point of contact for education and stakeholders within an agreed area will be identified to progress partnership approaches for maximising outreach work with local NHS organisations.
    • Stimulate and increase the capacity of healthcare organisations in being able to expand and support work or work related experience opportunities
    • Recognise and celebrate
best practice
in widening participation to encourage wider adoption.
      This includes establishing a directory of best practice and consideration regarding whether to establish a national forum for WP. 

    It is clear from the strategy that HEE have a huge task on their hands but have found a series of actions, which will take them and the NHS forward.

    They have found it difficult to define widening participation and acknowledge that it means different things to different people.  That may be the case but the HEE need to adopt a definition (or multiple definitions for different professions) if they are to ensure that there is commonality of purpose. 

    It is to be welcomed that equal importance is being placed on interventions which enable participants from underrepresented groups to progress and complete their educational studies alongside outreach and recruitment.

    One lever that is being used is that across the NHS there is more recognition and understanding of the social and economic value that large organisations, institutions and businesses can bring to the areas in which they are located and active. There are number of NHS organisations who are articulating and progressing their CSR strategies and linking these with strengthening community engagement. 

    To read the strategy in full and respond to the consultation click here

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