An education and expertise passport for health

A ‘skills passport’ for all staff across the entire health sector is moving a step nearer as Care UK prepares to be the first independent provider of health and social care piloting the scheme within the UK. The company has been chosen by Skills for Health, the sector skills council for health services across the UK, to explore the potential of testing the passport among its workforce, before a possible nationwide roll-out.
Supported by the Department of Health, the Skills Passport for Health is a portable, online record of an individual’s career history, current skills and training. The information it contains can be independently verified and includes an individual’s education, qualifications, competencies, employment history, training record and objectives.
It is accessible securely via the internet at anytime, from anywhere, and can be viewed by prospective or existing employers. The Skills Passport is intended to cover the NHS and independent sectors, permanent, contract temporary and volunteer workers, clinical and non-clinical staff across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Care UK employs over 2,000 staff working in primary and secondary healthcare, caring for approximately half a million people over the course of a year. It is a leading independent sector provider of services to NHS patients, operating over 40 primary care sites (including GP and walk-in services, out of hours, diagnostics centres, clinical assessment & treatment services and prison health services) and eight hospital treatment centres that specialise in elective surgery.
The six-month long Skills Passport pilot, which is due to start this summer, will involve Care UK staff from three different service schemes providing healthcare for NHS patients in north west England – an independent treatment centre, walk-in centre and GP practice – as well as other sites across the organisation.


Skills Passports are already issued by employers to their employees across a number of industry sectors of the UK economy, in both public and private sectors, and similar schemes are being developed around the world, including Australia, Canada and the EU.
The idea of a national competence passport in health emerged from a series of national stakeholder events and was included as an action in Modernising Nursing Careers (DH2006). To support these demands from all stakeholders, the Skills Passport for Health was born.
Since March 2009, Skills for Health has been working to develop and pilot a Skills Passport for Health under the guidance of a Strategy Group, chaired by David Foster, deputy chief nursing officer for England. The group’s membership includes representatives from the Departments of Health of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Unison, Royal College of Nursing (RCN), and health services for the military, prison service and education.
An initial pilot during 2009 focused on nursing, with around 300 nurses from 12 NHS organisations actively piloting the system. The scheme was independently evaluated at the end of March 2010 and the Strategy Group agreed to extend the number of pilot sites, broaden them beyond nursing and roll out to an entire region.
David Foster said: “The nursing workforce has repeatedly called for some form of competency passport to support the modernisation of nursing careers. I am delighted that this project has not only confirmed the case for a Skills Passport but also highlighted a range of potential additional benefits for employers, health workers throughout the UK, universities and, most importantly, those who use health services.”


An immediate objective is to reduce costly and unnecessary duplication of statutory and mandatory training – and pre-employment checks each time a worker moves between employers. Another is to provide a tool to encourage workers to take control of their skill and career development, in exchange for providing employers and policy makers with visibility of the skills, capabilities and compliance of the workforce.
The longer-term objective is to increase the flexibility, mobility and skills of health sector workers and in doing so increase productivity and quality of patient care.
The Skills Passport is not intended to replace ESR (Employee Staff Record), which is the HR and payroll system for the NHS across England and Wales, but will compliment ESR and other HR systems. It can be used to populate these systems with high quality, verified information and an individual can be connected to more than one organisation at any one time.
This makes it particularly valuable for flexible workers, bank staff, specialists that work for numerous employers, and those that offer their spare time to voluntary groups or other organisations.
As Care UK’s clinical education manager Adele Veldsman points out: “Interest and momentum for the Skills Passport is increasing at a rapid rate and we are delighted to come on board as a new pilot site that is independent but works in close partnership with NHS organisations.”

Set up and training

Skills for Health is confident that, as a progressive care service provider continually striving for innovation, Care UK is the right organisation to pilot passports within the independent sector. Care UK has already signed the Skills Pledge, which publicly demonstrates its commitment to supporting all healthcare employees to develop and gain valuable qualifications.
The Skills Passport can support Care UK in delivering this pledge by providing individuals within its organisation with the ability to record and evidence training, skills, qualifications and professional development.
It is crucial to the success of the pilot that key organisational stakeholders have been involved in the early planning stages, including representatives from Care UK’s training and development team, human resources and information technology department.
For example, it has been shown that pre-loading data into individual Skills Passports is the quickest and preferred method in implementing them within an organisation. This allows individual passports holders to have verified data at the beginning of the pilot, but required an IT readiness assessment to be conducted by Care UK to identify any issues at an early stage with regards to access and data transfer.
All the pilot sites will be given a project plan for six months to guide them during this period. Core training material will be provided for by Skills for Health to individuals, trainers and verifier organisations involved in the pilot.
Training sessions and drop-in sessions will be provided to participants on how to learn to use the tool; and they will be encouraged to bring in paper-based certificates and training records for uploading to computer as they populate their passport online.

The Care UK commitment
Across its clinical teams, Care UK employs a whole range of healthcare professionals including healthcare assistants, nurses, RMOs, GPs, physiotherapists, radiographers, technicians, anaesthetists, surgeons and consultants.
Whatever the background or level of experience of an employee, Care UK has a systematic approach to learning and development across the entire healthcare workforce. Everyone working in the healthcare division, at whatever level, is required to maintain and develop knowledge and skills appropriate to their role, in addition to completing a full range of mandatory training.
An annual programme of courses is delivered by the in-house training team, by external consultants, through links with universities and medical schools, and through a range of e-learning.
These are accredited for Continuing Professional Development by an external independent training organisation, the CPD Certification Service, and are open to both full and part-time employees, as well as locums and seconded staff.
Care UK‘s commitment to training and development not only extends to its own healthcare professionals but also to a variety of medical, nursing and dental students, who gain experience through clinical practice placements in treatment centres and minor injury units. Care UK works with education provider representatives to ensure that all accreditation requirements for these placements are met. There are also more informal opportunities for shadowing and mentoring.

Pilot sites

Adele explains how these elements will link within the pilot scheme: “The sites we have chosen include a surgery & GP led walk-in service in Liverpool and Manchester Clinical Assessment & Treatment Services. These were ideal for the ramp –up of the pilot project as Cheshire and Merseyside was part of the NHS pilot and we (both Care UK and Skills for Health) are interested in seeing the integration benefits for staff and employers if staff move between the NHS and Care UK in these areas. 
“Edgehill University is also in this area and we will be able to integrate data from staff that complete any of their courses, either mandatory or CPD, onto our systems with immediate verification.“
“There are so many potential advantages for our own staff, and for students and secondees, which will truly test the transferability of the Skills Passport. More and more, we are seeing a trend for people to move between public and private sector employment during their career. Or like many of our specialists, they may have a mixed employment pattern, spending part of their working week with a NHS trust and part at Care UK.”
She concludes: “Effective skills development is vital for the health sector workforce and it will become increasingly important to evidence this, as employers seek to implement new and more productive ways of working in response to a more challenging financial climate. Independent organisations such as ours contribute a great deal to the future development of effective, skilled workers for all areas of healthcare. At some point, staff may well move from the independent sector to the NHS, or vice versa”.
“The Skills Passport captures and updates all the training and development that people gain with us, whether they pursue their career with Care UK, move to another employer, take a career break or return to education. Evidence of their transferrable knowledge and skills stays with them.”

Employer benefits
The Skills Passport for Health pilot aims to demonstrate
a range of benefits for individuals and organisations. For employers they include:
•    Reduces duplication of training
•    Simplifies statutory and mandatory training, so that more time can be spent on up-skilling rather than compliance
•    Reduces the time to hire employees, cost of staff cover and pre-employment administration
•    Provides visibility over the skills and abilities of the entire workforce, meaning that training can be precisely targeted and enabling better planning for national skills shortages and emergencies
•    More flexible workforce
•    Promotes a culture encouraging individuals to take ownership of their own career progression, reducing staff turnover and increasing productivity

Employee benefits
For employees benefits include:
•    A single verified and portable career record from education to retirement
•    Reduce time to hire, speed up career progression and increase earnings
•    Ability to move both within the health sector and beyond.
•    Provides a list of training that needs to be completed and by when
•    Personal development planner to define and track objectives
•    An online store of all evidence of skills, learning, training, employment, work placements and volunteering, ready whenever needed e.g. demonstrating suitability for new role or revalidation
•    Faster career progression and less administration