Image: South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.Mental Health Case-study Series
Bands 1-4

South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust recognised that the lack of a clear career pathway for clinical support workers in Bands 1-4 was hampering effective staff development and progression. Trust education leads set out to develop a robust framework that ensured healthcare support workers (HCSWs) could progress within the organisation, and also bring more young people and BAME groups into the workforce.

The challenge

Consulting Internally and Externally

The Trust realised early on this project would require wide-ranging internal and external consultation. So they approached Skills for Health in late 2013 to facilitate this, and to provide  expertise and extra capacity.

Skills for Health put together a programme of workshops across the Trust where HCSWs, line managers, and senior managers could discuss any issues around creating accessible career ladders and help plan a way forward. They also put the Trust team leading the work in touch with the regional steering group so they could learn from other organisations.

“The regional steering group was a pleasant surprise, both in learning lessons and getting a reality check. Especially finding that other Trusts’ approaches were not a million miles from ours.”

Jeremy Robbins, Deputy Director of HR & Workforce Development,  South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

How they did it

Rationalising Job Descriptions to Ensure Success

One of the main tasks for the workshops was to acknowledge the need to rationalise the many  job descriptions used within the Trust for Bands 1 -3 posts that often described the same role. By developing one, transferable competence-based job description for each Band they hoped to ensure consistency across the Trust. This work has subsequently been taken forward within the Trust through a Workforce Transformation group set up as an outcome of the workshops.

Through the Workforce Transformation group, Skills for Health and the team worked with operational staff such as nurses and managers and also with Staff side, looking at custom and best practice to explore what the new job descriptions should look like. Eventually this comprehensive, consensus-building approach produced standard but flexible, baseline job descriptions for Band 2 and Band 3 roles that could be applied across the Trust.

Opening Access to a Wider Job Market

By making this switch and moving towards training new HCSWs using the apprenticeship framework the Trust was also able to recruit based on an individual’s values and potential, rather than just qualifications. This opened up a whole new pool of potential recruits who might have previously been missed.

The next phase to work towards is to train all new Band 2 HCSWs recruited this way through an apprenticeship framework. In the meantime, pilot work has started to take forward the new approach.

The outcomes

Piloting Apprenticeships

The Trust’s Forensics team had already seen the benefits of apprentices as part of a project in Barnsley and Wakefield. What they were now interested in was volunteering to explore how to combine apprenticeships with the newly redefined Band 2 and 3 job descriptions to create a ladder for career development.

Forensics are now recruiting to the Trust’s emerging HCSW development framework with the expectation that new entrants undertake apprenticeship training and there has already been a great deal of interest. Out of 60 recent applicants for HCSW roles in Forensics,  30 were invited to an assessment day and 10 so far recruited to a training contract. By using values based recruitment, the new job descriptions and training framework  the aim is that the best people will be recruited, will receive high quality training and will go on to secure a substantive post at the end of their training period.

Educating against Apprentice Resistance

The project is still at a relatively early stage. But as the Forensics team’s experience attracts more interest from staff and managers, and with the new job descriptions and competence requirements in place, development leads feel they are making good progress.

Whilst they have encountered some resistance to the move to introduce apprenticeship training for all new recruits, Skills for Health have assisted the Trust in educating and persuading managers of the benefits of this approach.

Where are they now?

Proposal for Change

The team is currently drafting a HCSW recruitment and career development framework that puts their experiences so far into one, single approach document that can be easily understood and applied across the Trust. While this has been an HR-led initiative so far, the Trust’s Nursing Directorate are fully engaged and providing the necessary professional leadership with the project also. The next step is to agree sign off with the Executive team before Trustwide launch in the coming year.