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Blended learning news

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04 October 2021

New programme to boost critical care workforce launches

More Nurses and Allied Health Professionals will receive specialist training in critical care as a new blended learning package, aimed at strengthening the workforce in intensive care units, is rolled out across England.

Health Education England (HEE) secured £10m to deliver this specialist training which will support as many as 10,500 nursing staff to further their careers in critical care. It will be delivered as a blended learning course, offering more flexible access to participants so they are able to balance commitments such as having a family, being a carer or not being able to travel.

The training will be rolled out this autumn and delivered by a mixture of HEIs, Critical Care Skills Network and Acute Trusts which were awarded contracts on the HEE national critical care training framework. The framework ensures quality and consistent critical care training provision across England.

Training for the standardised qualification is expected to take up to  12 months and will provide a nationally recognised pathway for a career in Adult Intensive Care Units (ICU) whether that is becoming a pod or shift leader, becoming a clinical educator or leading nursing research. 

The funding was announced in March and HEE has worked with a national Critical Care Education and training subgroup to commission this nationally recognised critical care programme.

James McLean, Deputy Chief Nurse at HEE, said: “We are delighted to launch this training in England and are looking forward to supporting our first cohort of learners in the coming weeks. It will provide a sustainable standardised nationally recognised qualification and a framework for a robust career pathway for critical care nurses who have played a crucial role during this pandemic.

“This programme will build skills, quality and resilience in this essential area of nursing and further strengthen the delivery of quality care in ICUs for patients and their families.”  

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation, Digital and Transformation at HEE, said: “I am really pleased to see the successful commission of the blended learning critical care programme. It is timely and has the potential to offer a qualitatively different approach in critical care nursing education with the use of innovative and emerging technologies.”

Julie Platten, Chair of The Critical Care National Network Nurse Leads Forum (CC3N), said: “At no time in the history of Critical Care nursing has the requirement for a skilled, knowledgeable and competent workforce been more apparent. We welcome (today’s) announcement of a much-needed substantial investment for the education and training of Critical Care nurses. This will enable greater access to a Critical Care Award underpinned by the CC3N ‘National Competency Framework for Registered Nurses in Adult Critical Care’, a step towards developing a sustainable workforce for the future.”



5 July 2021

Blending across continents

The Blended Learning programme team is co-ordinating a series of three international roundtables with colleagues in California.

Bringing together nursing leaders, subject matter experts and influencers ‘Sharing thoughts on simulation, regulation and workforce management’ will allow the invited participants to share ideas, data, experience and expertise to increase the impact of research. 

The series will result in the joint publication of a report (whitepaper) from the discussions and learning after the last event in November.

The first meeting took place on 30 June and focused of the impact of emerging technologies and simulation in the education and training of the current and future workforce. It was fully attended by all invitees with a lot of enthusiasm and drive to progress this agenda for nursing education and overall healthcare education.

Future round tables will look at ‘How can assurance be provided to regulators when using emerging technologies and simulation in education and training to meet required regulatory standards/ outcomes?’ and finally ‘How will emerging technologies, simulation and regulation impact the workforce in relation to new roles, new ways of working, recruitment, retention, upskilling and shortages?’


17 June 2021

Health Education England adds new midwifery degree to its ambitious blended learning programme  

The introduction of a new blended learning degree in midwifery has moved a step closer as Heath Education England (HEE) announced four universities who will deliver the degree by March, 2022.

This is the latest qualification to be included in programme, after the nursing degree which started last year. Both courses will help boost the workforce and open up the nursing and midwifery professions to more people.

The focus is on access-to-learning for people who have the skills and values to be excellent health professionals, and who will benefit from a more flexible way to learn; perhaps because they have caring responsibilities or live in a remote area of the country.

Universities offering the degree across England will be: Birmingham City University, University of Leeds – school of healthcare,  University of the West of England and University of Worcester.

In a change to tradition, students will split their time on practical placement while using a range of technologies, including Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Simulation, Avatars, gaming and Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) student midwives off campus.

Students have the option of studying for a Bachelor's degree or MSc, depending on their previous qualifications and institute they choose to study with. Those who study the Bachelor's degree course will have the option to study for a Master's or specialist area of midwifery if they want to. Those who already have a degree in certain subjects may be able to go straight to a Master's degree.

The level of training is of the same high quality that any health professional student receives on a similar degree course, with the added advantage of eventually starting their career armed with strong digital capabilities.

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation, Health Education England, said:  

“Blended learning approaches have been used in varying levels to educate healthcare professionals. Following our successful introduction of a fully integrated blended learning nursing programme there has been a surge in interest in its use for other healthcare professional education and training. 

“With this in mind, we are planning to broaden this innovative programme at pace and the introduction of a midwifery degree is an important and next step.” 

Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer OBE said: 

“This is an exciting time for midwifery education. Blended learning is a significantly different way to train and upskill people to become midwives that we will give future students a chance to study in a more flexible and accessible way, while supporting the growth of a digitally ready, expert and professional NHS 21st century workforce.”


14 December, 2020

Making a career in healthcare more accessible

Health Education England’s path-finder blended learning nursing degree

The blended learning nursing degree is the first of its kind to be commissioned by Health Education England (HEE), working with seven pathfinder universities to find and train those who would not normally consider nursing as a career or be able to study using the traditional format. 

It is the first of a new programme of courses using a blended format to train healthcare staff, including nurses, midwives, medical and allied health professionals. The blended learning approach differs from other health education courses by using digitally immersive training using new and emerging technologies, combined with practical, hands-on learning in health and care settings.

The focus is on access-to-learning for people who have the skills, aptitude and values to be excellent health professionals, and will benefit from a more flexible way to learn. This might be because they have caring responsibilities or live in a more remote area of the country, for example. Students will be able to choose their university based on their personal preferences, such as how easy it will be to access their practical experience close to home.

The level of training is of the same high quality that any health professional student receives on a similar Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, with the added advantage of completing the course and starting their career armed with strong digital capabilities as a result of their exposure to some of the most up-to-date technologies available.

Seven pathfinder universities form a unique collaboration as the first universities invited to work together on a national scale, focusing on where a student needs their practical experience rather than where the university is physically placed.  

Birmingham City University, Coventry University, University of Gloucestershire, University of Huddersfield, University of Sunderland and Open University with Middlesex University and University of West of England will begin delivery of the first blended learning nursing degree between January and March 2021.

Dr Navina Evans, Chief Executive, HEE, said: “There is a whole cohort of people who would make excellent nurses but, for a range of reasons, cannot access the traditional nursing courses available. 

“What Health Education England and the seven trailblazing universities are doing is identifying those people and giving them the opportunity to study in a more accessible way, whilst continuing to meet the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s standards. By doing so, we will open up the profession for more people to become great nurses of the future, whilst giving their employing trusts and the NHS a digital-ready workforce.”

Henrietta Mbeah-Bankas, Head of Blended Learning, HEE, added: “As a registered mental health nurse, I know how important it is to attract great people into healthcare roles. With our trailblazing partner universities, the latest technology, and required funding in place, I am confident we can do that.

“This is just the beginning – based on the learning from this first programme we plan to widen this offer to attract other health professions.”


5 October 2020

A further step toward an alternative route into nursing

There was a vibrant atmosphere – though virtual – when a new partnership of seven universities, Health Education England and members of other key organisations came together at mobilisation event last week, designed to connect those involved in delivering an alternative route into the nursing profession.

The Blended Learning Nursing Degree is an innovative national programme to train nurses of the future by providing opportunities to a much wider group of people who have the skills, aptitude and values for a career in nursing, but who may need to study in a more flexible way.

Using a range of technologies; including Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Simulation, Avatars, gaming and Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) student nurses will get easy access to new and emerging technologies giving them, and their future employing trusts, stronger digital capabilities. Students will still get important practice experience, spending up to 50 percent of their training time in practice settings already agreed with health and care providers across England.

The event was a collaborative activity, providing opportunities for the partnership to discuss specific topics relating to the successful next steps to delivery of the programme while beginning to build a network for knowledge sharing and best practice.

Students will emerge with a Bachelor’s or MSc degree in Adult Nursing after two to five years, depending on how they choose to study.

Universities are working towards the first students starting their courses from January- March 2021.

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation and SRO said “Flexibility and widening access is key to this programme – we know there must be many people who would like to study to be a nurse, but who cannot attend university in the traditional way.  By commissioning this different way to study nursing, we are opening up the profession to people who have other commitments or who want a career change and want to study flexibly. I am confident we will attract a talented group of people into the profession and create an invaluable resource of digitally skilled staff to the NHS.

“This course is open to everyone, even those with limited digital literacy skills or problems with local connectivity; our partner universities have all demonstrated how they will support students to access the course in a range of ways from help with their technological skills to providing course materials offline.  At the same time people interested in study can also apply for to the NHS Learning Support Fund for financial subsidies.  No one should be excluded from this opportunity.”

Find out more at HEE Blended Learning