01st October 2014 Written by Hugh McCaughey

Hugh McCaughey, Chief Executive, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and Board Member of Skills for Health

Image: Hugh McCaughey.In my four years, to date, as a board member at Skills for Health there has been a significant change in the way that skills development in the health sector is viewed.  The debate raised by isolated examples of failures in the delivery of patient care have brought-in a new wave of collaborative working and innovative recommendations that are now being implemented to effect change.   Thankfully, it is now widely recognised that we must do more to invest in and further the skills of our health care workforce as a priority if we are to create a more rounded service that can cope with ever increasing demand.

Steering a course through transition

As an organisation, Skills for Health has also undergone a significant transition whereby we will now achieve our objectives and offer benefits from the position of a charity, rather than a part of the NHS.  .  In my role as Chief Executive of South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, health and social care comes “under one roof” and it gives me a unique perspective on the importance and value of workforce planning.  It’s been an honour to use my experiences to offer guidance and input into this process – and ensure that the charitable objectives of Skills for Health resonate with and enhance the organisations we offer support to (across the NHS, independent and charitable sectors). A time for reflection

It is also fitting that part of being a Board Member at Skills for Health means looking at your own skills set and those around you.  As such, working with colleagues from different parts of the health sector (from care homes to NHS Trusts) has been a wholly positive experience which I hope has benefited the development of my own role. We should embrace collaboration in health care – as long as we are working to achieve the same end: a better skilled workforce for the future.

Challenges can improve the quality of skills and training

Organisations must naturally evolve to improve, but the “watchwords” for Skills for Health remain the same; quality and value. However, what is evident is that the Skills for Health “offering” will be increasingly tested and continuously challenged to meet the needs of its customers.  Having come through times of austerity, health care employers are rightfully demanding the very best quality “products” and Skills for Health recognises that it must meet these demands with innovative and reliable resources and products.   In short, despite Skills for Health heritage being in skills and training from within the NHS, it cannot afford to be complacent.

Investing in a brighter future

That’s why Skills for Health is committed to utilising its charitable status to invest in the development of new products that will meet the changing needs of the health care workforce.   Technology is an exciting area of growth and if it can be harnessed effectively via the right products and services could help streamline systems and create much needed time and cost efficiencies.

One of the “perks” of my roles as a board member at Skills for Health is hearing about the tangible and significant results that are being achieved across the country by NHS Trusts as well as the independent sector.  For example, Skills for Health’s input into the development of a new role (nail carer) spanning health and social care in an NHS Trust in the West Midlands has not only dramatically reduced waiting times from 2 years to 4 weeks, but also has the potential to save up to £10million if rolled out UK wide .    At a time when the health service is under so much financial pressure and under such intense public and media scrutiny – which can only have an effect on the morale of the workforce – these are the stories that we need to hear of more often.