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Case Study – NHS Education for Scotland

Creating safe, efficient, and effective new services for remote and rural populations, improving workforce utilisation and patient care

Scotland’s Remote and Rural Healthcare Educational Alliance used a competence-based approach to create a new flexible role, following a review by The Scottish Government, which identified a need to develop sustainable health services for remote, rural, and Island communities. Making better use of the healthcare workforce to address the challenge was vital for improving workforce utilisation and improving patient care. A new support worker role was a solution for health boards are to make the best use of available resources whilst meeting the needs of patients in rural communities.


  • Huge savings of resources – instead of several different people traveling long distances in remote and rural areas, just one individual with the right combination of skills can provide support to people in hard to reach places
  • Supports early discharge from hospital, rehabilitation, and self-care
  • Equitable, efficient, timely, and safe practice improves the experience for patients and carers
  • New role spans health and social care
  • Opens potential opportunities to provide effective care on islands without a doctor
  • Future-proofs progression for support workers into nursing and allied health professions
  • Competences mapped using Skills for Health and Social Care Toolkits, and mapped to a career framework means the role is applicable across the UK
  • Competences deliver evidence for regulation and personal development reviews

“This work will deliver a recognisable, flexible path for support worker staff in remote and rural areas and the learning they can undertake. As a result, they will be skilled to carry out activities such as provide appropriate nursing care, promote, and maintain therapies prescribed by AHPs and to undertake social care tasks.

Overall, they will be better equipped to address the needs of populations living in remote and rural areas.”

Pam Nicoll, Programme Director RRHEAL, NHS Education for Scotland

NHS Education for Scotland’s Remote and Rural Healthcare Educational Alliance (RRHEAL) worked with stakeholders to develop a new role encompassing health and social care and put in place the right supporting education solution.

RRHEAL developed a national solution for a generic support worker role in remote and rural areas through consultation, national events and examining the best practice of a rural support worker role scoped in 2007. They identified that this role be expanded to become a generic support role across health and social care.

The new role gave the potential for opportunities in non-Doctor Island settings. Suitably skilled individuals could carry out a range of appropriate interventions such as helping individuals to better manage chronic conditions, carrying out a screening process for the over 75s and providing early supported discharge. By drawing upon a broader range of skills, instead of several different people traveling long distances in remote and rural areas, just one person with the right combination of skills will be able to provide support to people in hard to reach places.

Skills for Health competences were mapped for the generic health and social care worker (GHSCW) profile. It was established that healthcare support worker roles could extend from Healthcare Support Workers (NHS Career Framework level 2 and qualified at SCQF level 5/6), through to Assistant Practitioners (NHS Career Framework level 4 and qualified at SCQF level 7/8).

The next step was to develop education and training for health and social care support workers in generic skills, such as oral and written communication and specific contextual skills such as the administration of medicines, and leadership skills. It will meet a real need as employers and education and training providers have indicated there is a demand for joint education training for health and social care support workers. Once qualified, the new post holders have evidence of their capability and competence.

As the Sector Skills Council for all health sector employers, we support NHS, independent, and third sector organisations. Since 2002 we’ve been working with employers to get the right people, with the right skills, in the right place at the right time. We are the authoritative voice on skills issues for the health sector and offer proven workforce solutions and tools – with the expertise and experience to use them effectively.