01st May 2015

Image: Assistant Practitioners.The Report

Skills for Health has commissioned a new report that explores the latest available research, a literature review of existing evidence and current opinion around the use of Assistant Practitioners in the NHS. It investigates the benefits of their use against the barriers of their implementation in the industry and explores how greater guidance and practical help could be made available to support employers to develop these roles.

The Francis Report, the Cavendish Review and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) review of safe staffing levels are a just few examples of the recent topical discussions surrounding support roles in the workforce. These have served to focus attention on the role of registered practitioners in supporting quality of care, whilst raising questions about the training and supervision of support staff.

The Research

Research for the report was conducted by Skills for Health between August and December 2014 and garnered opinion via interviews with regional representatives from Health Education England Local Education and Training boards, employers, higher and further education institutions, professional bodies, a Clinical Commissioning Group and focus groups and interviews with trainee APs and Assistant Practitioners. The work followed on from several previous pieces of research that had identified the development of these roles as central to the future health sector landscape.

Stakeholders can clearly articulate the benefits of introducing the Assistant Practitioner role, which include improvements in quality, productivity and efficiency. Assistant Practitioners are working in a range of clinical, community and laboratory situations; they are increasingly seen in roles that cross health and social care and professional boundaries. There is also a growing interest in their introduction into community settings.

The Findings

The report finds that a key driver in appointing Assistant Practitioners remains increasing their service capacity. In addition, AP posts are more likely to be successfully introduced where their development is part of workforce planning. Ensuring staff engagement with the process and that all staff benefit from the changes is equally important.

As a result of this research, Skills for Health have developed a number of recommendations surrounding the implementation of APs. They were to:

  • Work with HEE to facilitate discussion between employers and HEIs about the nature of the Assistant Practitioner role, education options and the portability of qualifications
  • Facilitate discussions amongst employers to encourage the sharing of information and practice in work-based learning.
  • Identify existing employer toolkits and examples of practice in developing and implementing Assistant Practitioner roles and facilitate the sharing of those toolkits and examples of practice through its website.
  • Provide exemplar templates for the design of training agreements to ensure employers reap the full benefits of the training and staff they have invested in.
  • Consider making facilities available for occasional face-to-face meetings for employers to network and discuss issues around the employment and training of Assistant Practitioners

Lorraine Yeomans, a Research Manager at Skills for Health said:

“This report is significant in that it confirms that introducing additional Assistant Practitioner roles in the health sector could increase cost efficiency within the NHS.

“We know that employers see these roles as valuable and contributing towards quality, efficiency and productivity. However, concerns still remain around delegation and supervision, as well as lack of registration and regulation. Some organisations have started to make steps to address these issues, with some success; and these potentially provide a model for future developments. The new Care Certificate will also provide additional guidance on supervision for the Assistant Practitioner role.

“Skills for Health is well placed to provide support and guidance to increase the effectiveness of this role to benefit workforce planning, providing support across a range facilities and environments within the health sector.”

The full report can be seen here: Assistant Practitioner Report

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