Collaboration for a successful delivery

June 22, 2007

An NHS trust led the development of a foundation degree that helps local women into a new healthcare role

Working with employers can help crack one of the sector’s most intractable problems — attracting people from disadvantaged groups into higher education. In East London, a foundation degree provided by City University, the University of east London and Newham University Hospital NHS Trust is recruiting women, including some who were unemployed, from the ethnically diverse local community to support midwives and pregnant women. The course, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Newham Council and NHS London, will train the women for the new role of assistant maternity practitioner.

"Newham has the highest birth rate in the country, and they found it challenging to recruit midwives," says John Garlick, principal lecturer in health service management at UEL. "They thought they could get more from their midwives by up-skilling people to support them."

The assistant practitioners work in operating theatres, take blood samples and conduct postnatal checks under the supervision of a registered midwife.

City provides the midwifery training, while UEL’s expertise lies in foundation degrees and health education. UEL is also local to Newham, which is important to foundation degree students, Garlick says.

The hospital set the scope of the new role and determined the skills needed to carry it out. It then worked out a training package with the universities. The partners settled on a foundation degree and worked out how the parts offered by the two universities would fit together and be validated, before pulling in the funding.

The hospital’s on-site job shop advertised for local unemployed women to join the programme. Some of the students were already volunteers for the hospital’s breast-feeding and birthing support team, which supports vulnerable women during pregnancy and after birth. The universities and the hospital worked together to find the first ten students for the scheme. "We were recruiting to the role and also to the university place, so it made sense for it to be a joint process," Garlick says.

The programme has been running for only a few months, but the signs are good. "I think we will have a group of competent practitioners who will support delivery of care for ladies who come into hospital and support the midwives in overseeing their care," says Lois Atkinson, assistant director of nursing (education) at the hospital. CS

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