Developing Assistant Practitioner Roles: NHS Lothian’s experience

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Case study examining the journey NHS Lothian took to establish the Assistant Practitioner Role (Healthcare Support Worker band 4) and the education to support the development of this role.

Case study story

What was needed and why?

Due to the changes in workforce and the changing needs of care there is a need to ensure Healthcare Support Worker (HCSW) career pathways are underpinned by education the breadth and depth of current roles.

NHS Lothian developed a clinical HCSW education and training strategy to promote development and career progression and support the promotion of a competent flexible and adaptive support worker workforce.  The strategy provided a clear structure outlining the level of education and training required for agenda for change band 2, 3, and 4 HCSW roles.  This was the starting point for the role development journey to introduce Assistant Practitioner (Band 4) roles.

How did they get more information?

A service needs analysis was carried out. It was essential for the future success of the new Assistant Practitioner (Band 4) role that from the service needs analysis there were clearly defined role and responsibilities. It was acknowledged that the specific knowledge and skills for the Band 4 role and the number of competencies undertaken may vary depending on the priorities in each area and the needs of the patients.  To assist with this, there was regular communication with an internal working group looking at knowledge, skills and behaviours.

How did they do it?

The working group reviewed current skills and competencies undertaken within the existing Band 3 and Band 5 roles.  They also reviewed and identified a list of competencies suitable for the Band 4 Assistant Practitioner role.

As part of the scoping process, NHS Education for Scotland supported NHS Lothian with a masterclass to assist the teams exploring the Band 4 role. The Masterclass model is based around the HCSW Learning Framework and the four pillars of practice. It supports teams to look across all four pillars of practice and identify what HCSWs already do, could desirably do, and should not do through the use of a traffic light system. Using the four pillars of practice helps to shift the focus from a task list to exploring opportunities to maximise the scope of the role for the benefit of the teams and the patients.

What did they achieve? 

Having worked through the service needs analysis and identifying the training requirements the education team were able to bring this information to the HCSW masterclass sessions. The outcome for NHS Lothian working collaboratively with NHS Education for Scotland was role clarity for the new Assistant Practitioner band 4 roles, aligned with the four pillars of practice.  

By working collaboratively with NES, NHS Lothian were able to successfully align the knowledge and skills their students gained through the formal learning programme, with real-world role boundaries and expectations for the new Assistant Practitioner role.  This empowered the teams who were introducing the new role to be clear and consistent around responsibilities and delegation.      

For more information, including practitioner testimonies, click this link to see the full NHS Lothian report 

For more information on the qualification used to support this development visit the SQA website.