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The power to innovate collectively

22 June 2020

In my new blog series, I’m sharing thoughts about how Health Education England (HEE) is playing its part in looking beyond the ‘here and now’, focusing on where we need to be and how we reset to the ‘new normal’ while harnessing learning for the benefit of our front line professionals as well as students, trainees and learners.

I firmly believe that when there is a critical mass of will and clear priorities, innovation can quickly reach the front line—to save lives and protect the health and well-being of front-line workers, patients, and the public. HEE’s drive to get products to the shop floor quicker than ever, through being more accepting of the ‘get it done’ approach we are taking, and not letting pursuit of perfection get in the way, means that we are delivering what the system needs now – benefiting the patients whom we ultimately serve.

To see evidence of HEE adopting this approach, you only need to look at the rapid two day mobilisation of our e-Learning for Healthcare (e-LfH) Covid-19 programme, which has ensured individuals supporting the effort – from allied health professionals coming back from retirement to third year student nurses and medical students graduating early – can quickly access the information they need to provide evidence-based, high quality care. The programme – initially produced to support induction at the London Nightingale Hospital – was very quickly expanded and is now being used all around the world, from New Zealand to the Netherlands.

I’m delighted to hand this blog to Dr Neil Ralph, Head of the HEE Technology Enhanced Learning team, to share key learning points from the mobilisation effort. Neil’s reflections clearly show what can be achieved when people are united by common, clear priorities and necessity.

“Firmly embedded in the ethos of the TEL team is the precedent that cooperation and collaboration are key – no one team can succeed alone. The strong relationships we have built up with stakeholders and partners stood the programme in good stead from the outset; the direct contact with trainers on the ground at NHS London Nightingale, meant we could get real time feedback on how our induction materials were being received so we could refine and tailor them; and the excellent relationships with Royal Colleges and professional groups, enabled us to create and mobilise a clinical reference group overnight, charged with exploring how we could respond to the needs of the wider workforce in addition to those working in critical care.

“But importantly, along the way we also acknowledged a strong awareness of interdependence firmly rooted in reciprocal trust and respect with our ALB counterparts; NHS England and NHS Improvement asking for our help in creating specific content aimed at returning GPs working in 111 centres, the independent care sectors is testament to this approach.

“As a team, to get materials ready for the platform, we had to be nimble. The team felt comfortable adopting a “pace over perfection” approach due to the unique situation, knowing it was within our gift to make changes and add polish as time allowed.  

“The clinical reference group – made up of a range of clinicians with experience of different specialties, settings and workforce needs, chaired by Dr Ed Hammond, Consultant Anaesthetist – worked effectively by allocating resources to the most relevant colleague and agreeing where in the programme’s hierarchy it should sit. One of the key challenges was to decide which content was important for staff working in different settings, perhaps coming with different skills, due to redeployment.  The clinical reference group’s diverse make up allowed this potentially overwhelming task to be completed confidently to provide relevant resources to the workforce responding to the pandemic.

“We built the COVID e-learning programme on the premise of getting learning resources to the people that needed them, with as few barriers as possible. As well as removing the requirement for users to register or log in (hence recognising the immediacy and urgency with which information would be needed, without the additional layer of passwords), we opened up free access to the entire health and care workforce in the UK regardless of their employer.

“This was an important decision for provision of support to our trainees and alumni who work in social care settings. We also extended free access to health and care colleagues working around the world via the eIntegrity platform – a partnership between HEE and the Royal Medical Colleges - and to date the resources are being used in 106 countries. This is ground-breaking because colleagues working in other countries usually pay a licence to access the e-learning content; but it was clear that HEE should step in and support all those involved in combating the global healthcare crisis.

“Since going live in the middle of March 2020 the Covid-19 e-LfH programme has been launched over 1.2 million times in the UK, clearly highlighting the demand from the workforce for national content authored by experts. We must now to reflect on the strong capability HEE has and ask whether we’re doing enough now to support the future workforce who will have very different digital habits compared to the workforce of today. HEE’s Digital Readiness programme is already laying the groundwork, working with professional groups, such as nurses, to identify pain points and work to help them define what they require to become digitally expert to the level they need. Their needs will inform our work with leaders and our digital natives to make sure barriers are removed and the right products and services are provided in the right way.

“We’re proud to take the next step towards opening further access through the release of our Learning Hub which users can contribute digital resources (including video, e-learning, audio, images, documents, web links, articles etc) and search and access the variety of learning resources that have been contributed by stakeholders and the health and care workforce to support system readiness and recovery from the pandemic, and beyond. 

“Innovating—individually and collectively—can change the future. And I’m hopeful that the changes in attitudes, mindsets, and energies that have united colleagues and stakeholders in the mobilisation of the e-LfH programme will persist once this emergency is over.”

For more information go to https://www.e-lfh.org.uk/programmes/coronavirus/

Posted by Professor Wendy Reid, Interim Chief Executive, HEE – key contribution from Dr Neil Ralph, Head of the HEE Technology Enhanced Learning team