10th February 2015 Written by Marc Lyall

Image: Marc Lyall.Alongside my fellow Regional Directors at Skills for Health, a large part of my role is to network and engage with people from within the healthcare sector.  In fact, keeping in touch and ultimately “in tune” with those delivering services on the frontline is essential to my role.  As a Sector Skills Council, we are involved in many key regional and local meetings as well as having a strong presence at networking events and conferences across the country. Last year was no exception, and over recent months I’ve had the opportunity to get an improved idea of what the key issues are in healthcare today and consider how we can adapt our support services to provide tailored solutions.  

And so, as the meeting and appointment schedule for 2015 gets in full swing again, I think it’s timely to reflect upon the some of the key themes and issues that have emerged in the past year and will continue to have relevance over the coming months.

1. Key theme : Health and social care integration

So, having shared place at the table with  broad range of organisations with an interest in community health and social care from CCGs, to representatives from large NHS Trusts, local authorities and charity groups –  one certainly feels an increasing recognition that collectively we need to do things differently in the sector and take a more integrated approach. This shift towards greater collaboration between stakeholders was a recurring theme last year, alongside recognition that each locality will have a different set of needs and services that need to be reconfigured accordingly to provide the best patient pathway. Cost continues to be a key driver in this decision making process and if we are to move towards a future of integrated health and social care we need to talk more openly about the most effective diversion of funds and be realistic about how integrated care can be balanced with the need to practice “financial discipline”1

Image: NHS Confed Wales Montage.

2. Key theme: workforce planning

The rising integration agenda and this journey towards a future of more integrated health and social care services has meant that workforce planning was at the forefront of many conversations in 2014.   Healthcare providers often face pressure to take action to reshape services and teams to improve quality, clinical effectiveness and address rising demand. With the introduction of Skills for Health’s Roles Directory back in March 2014, the opportunity for those with the interest in creating new or redesigned roles surged.  If we look at just one current issue in the health service – so called “bed blockers”, it is interesting to consider how a redesign of transitional services including the creation of new role such as Care Navigator could go some way to help to alleviate this issue.

3. Key theme: responding to the Practice environment 

Engaging with GPs during the year gave an interesting perspective on the landscape and outlook of today’s GP practices. The CQC inspection process means that the need to be compliant with statutory and mandatory workforce training has been brought into sharper focus for Practice Managers.  While usually small, independent organisations, GP practices operate within the same constraints as the wider healthcare system. So, faced with limited budgets, recruitment issues and challenging patient lists, it can be difficult for GP Practices to prioritise and schedule in training and skills development.  In that respect, e-learning has proved to be a cost effective way to bring training for all staff into the heart of community health.  It has huge benefits for staff that can easily be updated on core skills and competencies, which in turn brings greater efficiencies to the Practice and helps improve patient relations in general.  And, the figures speak for themselves – Skills for Health e-learning receives over 500,000 completions per annum in the NHS alone.

Clearly this list isn’t exhaustive but as 2015 moves quickly on I look forward to both meeting more colleagues in the West of England, as well working with organisations to help them resolve some of these issues.


  1. BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-31097983. Public Accounts Committee