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HEE Project to develop postgraduate training for nurses caring for older people with complex needs

The aim of this project is to ensure that the care of older people is of the highest standard and is delivered by caring nurses who are highly skilled and competent because they have been well equipped to perform their role by undertaking specialised and focussed training.

July 2015 update

What is this about?

To provide an update on the Health Education England (HEE) project to develop postgraduate learning and development for nurses caring for older people with complex needs.

The must know facts:

HEE Mandate for 2014/15: Developing post-qualification learning and development of nurses caring for older people with complex needs project.

Demographic changes and the advance of modern medicine has meant that there are increasing numbers of frail elderly patients in hospital and community settings, with the average age of a hospital inpatient now greater than 80. The implication of this is that all nurses dealing with adults, in all settings, need to acquire the specific skills and expertise to care for these patients. Within this broader group, some nurses will spend the majority or all of their time caring for older patients with complex conditions and need to have more specialist expertise.

HEE held a number of regional and national events with experts in the care of older people from across the country during 2014. These events concluded that a National Career Framework should be developed for nurses caring for older people, divided into three levels:

Foundation level education – suitable for all registered nurses;
Specialist level education – suitable for nurses who work predominately with older people;
Higher specialist education – suitable for nurses in a specialist care of older people role.

As a result, HEE commissioned Northumbria University to explore the nature of the skills required to care for older patients. Research, using a Delphi survey method, enabled Northumbria University to produce a framework defining the key skills that should be attained at ‘Foundation’ level and ‘Specialist’ level. The intention is for the framework to initiate conversations between nurses and their supervisors, as well as commissioners and training providers, ensuring that education and training is focused on supporting the specific skills required by these nurses.

This report is now complete and HEE are currently in discussions with Northumbria University about the piloting of this framework nationally, with qualified nurses and Bands 1 – 4 staff. You can find the full report (framework for older people's nursing) at the bottom of this page.

Recognising the knowledge and skills required by nurses in a specialist care of older people role, HEE commissioned King’s College London to develop and implement an Older Person’s Nurse Fellowship programme (OPNF). The OPNF programme aims to develop a cadre of nurse leaders who are both recognised experts in the care of older people and who have the skills and influence to lead change so that the care of older people is compassionate and of the highest possible quality. The programme draws together senior nurses from LETBs around the country who are working in a range of clinical settings which span community, hospital and mental health services.

These nurses have the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of the holistic care of older adults whilst being supported to work on a change management project in their local area. This project is the first step in bringing their learning into practice by implementing change and championing innovation within their own work setting.

The inaugural programme began with its first cohort of 12 in November 2014 and the second cohort of 12 commenced in March 2015.

Initial indications are that the OPNF is having an immediate positive impact on the Fellows’ clinical practice, leadership performance and the ability to influence change. We anticipate that the development of a network of specialist nurses in the care of older people will help to drive improvements in the quality of nursing care for older people; indeed, early indications are that this already is happening.

More info from…
Claire Ward

Louise Southern

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