With nursing staff shortages at an all-time high, it’s never been more crucial to get NHS healthcare workers fully-trained and qualified to help tackle the situation, which the experts are describing as at risk of becoming a “national emergency”.

Helping to address the skills gap, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has joined forces with a local College to upskill its workforce, enabling clinical staff to gain the Level 2 maths and English qualification - the minimum requirement for those wishing to progress to university to study the Nursing Practitioners Degree.

The Level 2 Functional Skills qualification in maths and English is offered at Nottingham College as an intensive three-day course, giving employees the flexibility and ability to achieve the qualification quickly, alongside their often long and demanding working hours.

Since 2014 more than 100 healthcare workers have completed the intensive course at the College and have gone on to university.

Heather Porter is the Learning Advisor and Apprentice Lead for Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, where she has worked for more than 15 years. She has been working in partnership with the College to provide training to NHS clinical staff for the past five years and says they are hugely beneficial to employees, and crucial if they want to progress in the medical field. She said:

“I believe that many people have been let down in their schooling and often haven’t achieved their full potential. As an adult learner, the experience can be a far more positive one, and can open new doors and lead to new opportunities.

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“For some, returning to education can cause anxiety, especially around maths, so I think, in addition to the qualification itself, the course also helps to build confidence and self-esteem. Enrolling on the course is also a good indicator of commitment and the effort that is required and expected of them in their roles.

“This is a growth area for us as and our partner NHS Trusts (Sherwood Forest, City Care and NUH). We are promoting the uptake of trainee nurse associates and nursing apprenticeships, so the maths and English is a must for all those considering this career development opportunity.

“I would highly recommend this course to other organisations or businesses as a great way to develop and upskill their staff. We’re so impressed with the course that we are now looking at doubling capacity from January.”

Nottingham College Programme Lead, Carl Ara, said: “It’s been wonderful to see so many NHS staff taking advantage of our intensive courses and progressing to university. It can be daunting returning to a classroom environment, but our lecturers are approachable and supportive, and our aim is to make the experience an enjoyable one that helps them to build not only knowledge, but also self-confidence.

“This free part-time course is flexible to meet the needs of the individuals and the business. Usually it’s delivered over three days which can take different formats – over three consecutive weeks run on a Friday, or three days back-to-back.

“The programme has worked very well for NHS staff, and I see this as an avenue that could be opened up to other businesses if their workers need it and are ready for it.”

For healthcare workers Diane and Sally, the Level 2 maths qualification was essential for them to progress to The University of Derby this year to study the Nursing Associates Degree.

Diane Oxborough, 52, is a Community Assistant Practitioner, from Wickersley in Rotherham, and has been working in the care industry for over 20 years. She said:

“At the moment I’m limited in the care I can deliver, which means that my patients often have to see different practitioners. I want to become the full package so that I am able to give the full care that my patients deserve.

“Accessing this three-day course meant that I could study alongside my job. It was crucial to complete the qualification quickly in order for me to meet the university deadline, so the intensive course was perfect for me.

“Initially I was a little bit anxious about doing the course, but it was reassuring being surrounded by people of all different ages and backgrounds, who all had the same goal as me.

“The support of my teacher Paul was immense; I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. He went above and beyond to support me when I needed it, even after the lesson I knew I could contact him if I needed any advice or help with my revision. When I received the news that I’d passed, it was a huge relief! This qualification will enable me to take the next step, so I couldn’t be happier.”

For fellow NHS worker and classmate Sally Deakin, 40, from Woodbeck, the time was right to build a career for herself after being busy raising her children for the past 14 years. Sally has been working in high secure services at Rampton Hospital for the last year; she wanted the opportunity to develop in the field but needed Level 2 Maths to do it.

Often working 14-hour days and 10-hour night shifts, determined Sally would use her break times and weekends as valuable revision time. She said: “My job requires me to work long hours, and when I’m at home it’s important for me to spend quality time with my family, so any spare five minutes I could find, I would use to revise.

“I’m really passionate about what I do and I want to make a real career of it, so I’m prepared to put in the extra effort to get me there. I know that university will be challenging, but taking this first step back into the classroom has been a great start and has given me a real confidence boost.

“I would say to anyone who, like me, may have left school with few qualifications, and looking to improve their maths, to give this part-time course a go, because it’s flexible and eases you back into education gently. For me, it has been a vital stepping stone to get me to university and on the right path to becoming a fully-qualified nurse.”

Nottingham College Functional Skills Tutor, Paul Huskisson, taught both Diane and Sally. He adds: “The level of dedication, motivation and passion from learners walking through the door has been overwhelming.

“Achieving the Level 2 qualification begins to unlock opportunities, including promotion and university courses. It is extremely rewarding and satisfying for me to see learners make significant changes in their lives, becoming aspiring role-models within their communities.”

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