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Education and health: a marriage to be made in 2007

1 January 2007

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Elaine Guy
AMSPAR President

Education and health seem to be more closely related than ever before, with the implementation of campaigns relating to individuals and to the education and health sector as a whole.

The government has been particularly keen to publicise its antismoking message after the announcement in December that, from 1 July 2007, virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces in England will become smoke-free.

There has been the introduction of a website ( for individuals and businesses to register their support, and the New Year has seen the launch of a hard-hitting advertising campaign to coincide with a time when many people begin their resolutions with the best of intentions.

Unhooking bad habits
The “HOOK” campaign adverts, which feature on television, outdoor billboards and websites, show smokers being violently seized by a fishhook as they are dragged to their traditional smoking spots. The adverts highlight how addictive cigarettes are and that, although smokers often think their smoking is just a habit they can control, the act is actually controlling them.

HOOK also offers advice and methods of treatment for those wishing to kick the habit for good. The government has followed this up with an announcement that, from October 2007, the legal age for buying tobacco products will increase from 16 to 18.

Alcohol has also been targeted by the government, with a particular view to educating 18–24-year-olds to drink responsibly and be aware of the consequences of drinking to excess.

The “Know Your Limits” campaign has been introduced to try to educate the public about “how much is too much”. Again, there has been television advertising, as well as a poster and leaflet campaign, with the slogan “Too much alcohol makes you feel invincible when you’re at your most vulnerable”.

Practices can use these national campaigns to support work within their local areas. For example, banners and leaflets can be downloaded from relevant websites and displayed in reception areas.

Health trainers
Following the publication of the Choosing Health white paper, the Department of Health announced the introduction of NHS-accredited health trainers to give support to those in the areas of highest need (defined as those 20% of primary care trusts [PCTs] with the poorest health and deprivation indicators, known as “Spearhead PCTs”).

These areas have each received £200,000 additional funding to provide personalised plans for individuals to improve their health and prevent diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease. From 2007, the initiative will be extended throughout England, so each PCT will soon have an NHS-accredited health trainer.

There has been a further correlation between the education and health sectors with the recent implementation of the new 14–19 Diploma, following the publication of the 14–19 Education and Skills white paper in February 2005. The system of diplomas will run parallel to the established system of GCSEs and A-levels, so students will be able to choose between the two routes or complete parts of each system. The aim is to develop a course of 14–19 education that prepares all young people for success in life.

Employers throughout the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are therefore being consulted in order to develop qualifications combining classroom education with practical workplace experience. One of the first diplomas to become available to students is the Diploma in Society, Health and Development, so general practices may find themselves having the opportunity to take on work placement students sooner rather than later!

The system of the future aims to ensure that all young people are able to stay in learning post-16, and that, as they do, qualifications and the curriculum become a progressively more engaging experience and provide valuable preparation for their working lives.

The centrepiece of the programme of reform is the creation of a new national curriculum and qualifications entitlement. Every young person will be expected to achieve the functional skills: the ability to use basic English, Maths, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in a range of practical settings.

From the age of 14, young people will have a choice between pursuing general qualifications, including a new “General Diploma” (to be awarded to those achieving the equivalent of five A*–C grade GCSEs, including English and Maths), and pursuing new, employer-designed specialised diplomas. There will be 14 sets of specialised diplomas at three levels (going up to advanced level), covering the occupational sectors of the economy.

Young people completing Level 2 diplomas (the equivalent of five A*–C GCSEs) will be prepared to go on to Level 3 diplomas, A-levels or apprenticeships. The first five diplomas, including the Diploma in Society, Health and Development, will be available from 2008. Specialised diplomas in Levels 1, 2 and 3 will be available in all 14 sector areas as a national entitlement by 2013.

Diploma Development Partnerships (DDPs), led by employers through SSCs, have been set up to develop the content of the diplomas, and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) have provided advice on the structure of the diplomas. DDPs are currently consulting awarding bodies, as the qualifications are developed for accreditation by June 2007. They will be made available to schools by September 2007 for them to prepare for first teaching in September 2008.

Primary care qualifications
As an awarding body, AMSPAR has been involved with the development of the Diploma in Society, Health and Development. In the midst of all this change, the Learning and Skills Council has also announced an increase in funding for the current Level 2 qualifications.

The AMSPAR Intermediate Diploma in Medical Reception has therefore had its available funding increased by 44%. Ironically, this comes at a time when there has been endless publicity regarding cuts in training budgets for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals as strategic healthcare authorities (SHAs) and trusts make cuts to deal with NHS deficits.

Coinciding with the changes in qualifications, AMSPAR, in conjunction with partners including the National Clinical Governance Support Team, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the NHS Security Management Service and the Institute of Healthcare Management, has updated a training directory aimed at managers working within primary care.This directory helps to direct managers towards a range of organisations and programmes that can support them with their identified development needs, and is available to download from the AMSPAR website (

It seems that, for the time being at least, education and healthcare are destined to remain intrinsically linked.

Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists
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