Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust teams up with University of Sunderland in healthcare education project

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A new partnership which aims to bring an innovative approach to healthcare education has been launched.

Last summer, construction started on the £32 million Northumbria Health and Care Academy, on the site of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH) in Cramlington.

Now, an ambitious partnership has been announced, which will see the University of Sunderland join Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to develop a range of academic programmes and apprenticeships designed to enhance and develop the skills of healthcare professionals.

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At a time when recruitment and retention are key challenges for the NHS, the trust is seeking to ‘grow its own’ by creating a facility to support the ongoing training and career development of key groups of clinical staff.

Sue Brent, Head of School of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Sunderland; Emma Dawes, Northumbria Healthcare’s chief matron for nursing and midwifery education programme; Professor Tony Alabaster, Academic Dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, University of Sunderland; Marion Dickson, Northumbria Healthcare’s executive director for nursing, midwifery, and allied health professionals; Hazel Rounthwaite, Head of Work Based Learning, University of Sunderland; Ruth Auton, Northumbria Healthcare’s head of education, learning & organisational development.Sue Brent, Head of School of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Sunderland; Emma Dawes, Northumbria Healthcare’s chief matron for nursing and midwifery education programme; Professor Tony Alabaster, Academic Dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, University of Sunderland; Marion Dickson, Northumbria Healthcare’s executive director for nursing, midwifery, and allied health professionals; Hazel Rounthwaite, Head of Work Based Learning, University of Sunderland; Ruth Auton, Northumbria Healthcare’s head of education, learning & organisational development.
Sue Brent, Head of School of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Sunderland; Emma Dawes, Northumbria Healthcare’s chief matron for nursing and midwifery education programme; Professor Tony Alabaster, Academic Dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, University of Sunderland; Marion Dickson, Northumbria Healthcare’s executive director for nursing, midwifery, and allied health professionals; Hazel Rounthwaite, Head of Work Based Learning, University of Sunderland; Ruth Auton, Northumbria Healthcare’s head of education, learning & organisational development.

The university partnership means that it will be the first establishment of its kind in the region and just the second in the country.

Marion Dickson, Northumbria Healthcare’s executive director for nursing, midwifery, and allied health professionals, said: “This new facility and the partnership with the University of Sunderland will mark a real step change in how we train our clinical staff. It will support them to enter our workforce sooner and then continue to develop their clinical skills and competencies.

“By looking after our people in this way, we hope to grow our own workforce for the future and, of course, having a well-trained, vibrant staff will support us to continue to provide the highest quality of patient care.”

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The University of Sunderland was selected to co-create the programmes due to its strong track record and experience in delivering innovative healthcare education and blended learning initiatives.

The focus of the academy will be nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists, radiographers, podiatrists and occupational therapists.

Anticipated provisions will include a top-up degree for diploma qualified staff, and an enhanced practice Masters-level qualification, alongside many bespoke training opportunities to support professional development.

Subject to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approval, this will include nursing associate, non-medical prescribing and shortened nurse training apprenticeships leading to registration.

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Emma Dawes, the trust’s chief matron for nursing and midwifery education programmes, said: “Ensuring our staff have access to ongoing education and training opportunities is important to us, as we want to give our people chances to develop their careers. At the same time, it helps us to ensure we have a highly skilled workforce who can deliver the very best for our patients.

“Partnering with Sunderland will allow us to develop our offer on a whole new level, providing support from pre-registration right through to advanced levels.”

The new Health and Care Academy is set to be completed in spring 2024. Once up and running, the aim is to have two cohorts of 35 trainee nurse associates each year.

Planning approval was granted for the 8,000 square metre Health and Care Academy in late 2021. Alongside the education hub, it will feature conference facilities, office space and meeting rooms. The trust’s development partner on this project is Assura plc.

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The ground floor will be occupied by Brockwell Medical Group, which is relocating its GP practice from its current site two miles away. A drive-through coffee shop and wellbeing walking trail are also included in the scheme.