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Case Study – Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Creating accessible training in Psychological Therapies as Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust uses competencies for training, using National Occupational Standards (NOS) and Skills for Health competence planning tools

Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust offers care for the population across Berkshire, including support for people with mental health problems and those with learning disabilities.

Services are provided for children and young people, adults, and older people as well as specialist substance misuse services.

Managers were keen to upskill the current workforce in bands 1 – 4 and equip them with the skills and competences they might need in their daily dealings with service users. The work was timely fitting in well with the Trust’s review of Psychological Therapies training requirements, which identified that five levels of modular training be developed. This work also supports the national directive to ensure Psychological Therapies are available as a medication for people suffering from mental health disorders.

The NDS project offered an ideal opportunity to explore and use National Occupational Standards (NOS) and Skills for Health competence planning tools, and ultimately develop and accredit a new modular training programme in foundation level psychological therapies. An important element of the project was to assess with learners and line managers whether NOS could aid learning and support continuing professional development.

When Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was invited to host a National Demonstrator Site (NDS), managers decided to use the opportunity to develop its provision of training and education packages in Psychological Therapies.

“The training has made a real difference to the people who have completed the programme, enabling them to understand better the needs of our service users.

The NOS and competences were a great asset in devising this modular training and we are delighted with how the programme is gaining momentum with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.”

Julie Bennetts, Project Lead, Psychological Therapies Demonstration Site,
Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Our team here at Skills for Health have developed a bank of national workforce competencies (NWCs) and National Occupational Standards (NOS) which describe the skills and knowledge required to carry out a task or function effectively. Competences are designed to underpin and be integral to accredited and non-accredited education and training programmes.

The foundation level training was open to all staff in bands 1-4 who have any contact with service users, for example, support workers, administration staff, facilities staff, and receptionists. Before a NOS and competence-based approach being adopted, two cohorts of learners had already progressed through the in-house training programme.

Managers identified NOS, mapping them to the Foundation Level programme, and then they used Skills for Health competence application tools to identify competencies. When the third cohort of learners participated in the project and progressed through the revised training programme, their feedback was captured through a learner’s handbook.

This self-assessment format prompted learners to consider their level of competence in skill areas. It formed an important part of the education package, before and after the training which was delivered in four half-days over four weeks. The self-assessment exercise was drawn from the Skills for Health Self-Assessment Tool and the learning objectives of the programme.

Core competencies identified and used

  • Relate to and interact with individuals
  • Ensure your actions support the care, protection, and well-being of individuals
  • Contribute to, assess, and act upon the risk of danger, harm, and abuse
  • Implement, monitor, and evaluate therapeutic interventions within an overall programme


  • Progression career pathway for staff in bands 1-4
  • Service user-centred approach facilitates a positive learning experience
  • Learners exposed to carers and service users as part of the training programme
  • Increased empathy among learners with service users
  • Self-assessment enabled learners to engage effectively with the training programme
  • Greater employee satisfaction, leading to reduced turnover levels and saving HR costs

The Competences are part of a range of electronic tools available on the Skills for Health website which can help managers design roles, services, education, and training and forecast future needs. They are a powerful tool for those who want to structure their teams’ and individuals’ learning and development around service user needs, and they can all be linked to the Knowledge and Skills Framework.

Use of competences and workforce planning tools are still in their infancy at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Initial results however have been promising, the performance indicator aspect of competence tools have proved to be extremely helpful for managers.

Work relating to the development of an award pathway for staff will continue in the future focusing on the accreditation of each of the five levels of training and the links with Further and Higher education. The Trust aims to have the Foundation and Basic courses accredited by Thames Valley University and the higher levels by the University of Reading.

“We are very pleased with the early results of our work on this aspect of the National Demonstrator Sites work, especially with the way that NOS and KSF are so complementary. Now we are looking at competency-based job descriptions for support staff, which represents a very exciting stage of development.”

Julie Bennetts, Project Lead, Psychological Therapies Demonstration Site,
Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Competences describe what individuals need to know and do, whoever is performing the task, which means they have many and varied uses.

The application of NOS and Skills for Health competence and application tools has enabled Berkshire to take a more standardised approach to workforce development, upskilling in bands 1-4.

“We have been delighted at the way the learners have embraced this programme of training. Such education packages offer a real step up for individuals and will prepare them for further career progression in the future.”

Susanna Rose, Head of Psychological Therapies, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Here at Skills for Health, we continue to support the development of competence-based approaches to the design and redesign of roles and services. As part of this, we are helping health care organisations strengthen their professional development programmes.

As the Sector Skills Council for the UK health sector, we support the NHS, independent healthcare providers and voluntary organisations. Our purpose is to help develop solutions that can deliver a skilled and flexible workforce to improve health and healthcare.