Published on 18 July 2023
A multimillion-pound partnership to bring an innovative new approach to healthcare education and drive quality for patients has been launched in the north-east.
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 develop a range of academic programmes and apprenticeships designed to enhance and develop the skills of healthcare professionals.
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.
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.”
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.
Head of School of Nursing and Health Sciences, Sue Brent, said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting new partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
“This new multi-professional working partnership marks an innovative approach to the region’s healthcare education ensuring staff within the trust have access to high-quality education, amazing state-of-the-art facilities, optimising nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals’ workforce education, training, and development.”
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 and subject to the Nursing and Midwifery Council approval (NMC), this will include nursing associate, non-medical prescribing and shortened nurse training apprenticeships leading to registration.
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 Academy will prove an extremely valuable addition to the trust’s extensive learning and development offer.”
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.
The partnership once again shines a spotlight on the leading role that the University of Sunderland plays in the region’s health-related education, research, innovation and knowledge transfer. Healthcare programmes now include medicine, nursing, midwifery, paramedic science, healthcare sciences, pharmacy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
Over the last 12 months the University has continued to invest in health-related education and research, opening a multi-million-pound anatomy centre at Sunderland’s City campus. A state-of-the-art midwifery suite saw its first intake of students last September, building on other nursing programmes highly regarded by NHS partners.
Most recently, the University announced the largest ever individual donation - £5m – to Sunderland by John Dawson, a graduate and pharmaceutical entrepreneur. The John Dawson Drug Discovery and Development Research Institute will play a key role in turning laboratory research and innovation into life-changing therapies for clinical practice, and is the second of the University’s two health-led research institutes, the first being the Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute launched in 2019.
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 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.
It is one of a number of current or recently completed projects which make up Northumbria Healthcare’s £326 million five-year estates masterplan, which includes the £35 million new hospital at Berwick, £15 million-worth of investment at Hexham General Hospital, and refurbishments and upgrades at Wansbeck, North Tyneside, Alnwick and Rothbury hospitals.