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Learning opportunities: why investing in staff training will reap rewards

1 September 2007

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As most managers would appreciate, one of their most important tasks is to ensure that they have an appropriately trained staff. A skilled and knowledgeable workforce is more likely to be efficient and productive, and will save the organisation time and money in the long term. And the manager shouldn’t forget themselves – just as others require continuing professional development, so do you!
There are numerous courses and training opportunities available. At AMSPAR, we have a number of qualifications suitable for all the nonclinical members of the practice team. We continue to add to our portfolio to ensure the qualifications are up-to-date with current healthcare policies and techniques.
Developing new qualifications can be a lengthy process. If a need is identified, a broad consultation takes place, which involves practices/hospitals (as appropriate), providers, royal colleges and other organisations.
Once feedback is taken and the qualification is developed, drawing upon National Occupational Standards and the Knowledge and Skills Framework, a number of pilot exercises will take place before the final format is agreed. Should the intention be to have the award accredited to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), it must first receive endorsement from the requisite sector skills councils, such as Skills for Health.
Terminology qualification
AMSPAR has recently introduced a new qualification – the Level 2 Award in Medical Terminology for Non-Clinical Professionals.
In early August, we received confirmation from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) that this award has been accredited into the NQF alongside our other qualifications: the Level 2 Intermediate Diploma in Medical Reception (IDMR), the Level 3 Certificate in Medical Terminology for Non-Clinical Professionals, the Level 3 Advanced Diploma for Medical Secretaries (ADMS), and the Level 5 Diploma in Primary Care Management (DPCM).
The new qualification is designed as a basic introduction for staff who need a rudimentary knowledge of medical terminology, and is an ideal stepping stone for those who wish to progress to the Level 3 Medical Terminology qualification. The award has 45 guided learning hours, and will be taught by AMSPAR-approved training providers from September 2007. It is also available as a home-study course. The first examinations are due to take place in January 2008.

New diploma courses
As many will be aware, September 2008 sees the introduction of the new
14–19 diplomas that will be delivered by schools and colleges. Much work has been carried out in the past year in order to prepare these qualifications for teaching in the autumn of 2008.
The first wave consists of five subjects, one of which is the Diploma for Society, Health and Development. The award requires the learner to be proficient in a number of areas: general learning, a project, principle learning and a minimum of 10 days’ work experience. The final part of the diploma is taken up by additional/specialist learning (ASL).
There are already 50,000 students lined up for the first enrolment in September, so practices should be aware that schools and colleges will be looking for this number of work placements!
AMSPAR has been accredited with Component Awarding Body status. This means that some of our qualifications can count towards ASL. It is AMSPAR’s intention to have the Level 2 Award in Medical Terminology for Non-Clinical Professionals also included. Already granted access to the catalogue is the IDMR and the Level 3 Award in Medical Terminology for Non-Clinical Professionals.

Administration certificate
Also being unveiled in September 2007 is the new AMSPAR Certificate in Health Service Administration, which will replace the current Certificate in General Practice Reception and the Certificate in Hospital Reception qualifications.
This is set at the equivalent of Level 2, so is an ideal qualification for those new in their post or in need of a refresher course. It is also fulfilling for an individual to have a certificate that demonstrates their proficiency at work.
Ideal candidates will be primary and secondary care receptionists/administrators. The certificate will provide candidates with practical and personal skills to enable them to develop and progress as an administrator within the healthcare sector. The syllabus covers 12 topics, including customer service, confidentiality and health and safety in a clinical environment.
Assessment is by assignment, which will be marked by the centres and moderated by AMSPAR. This will allow greater flexibility for both the centres and the learners, since there are four points in the calendar year when the set assignments can be completed.
There will be 30 minimum guided learning hours for this course. To achieve the qualification, candidates will need to gain a pass in the nationally set assignment.

Importance of staff training
While it has been a lean time recently for training budgets, it is a false economy not to invest in your staff. Some argue that there is no point in this as the person just moves on to a “better job”.  This is not necessarily the case, as evidence points to the fact that training aids staff retention.
Besides, if the person does move on, will they leave with a positive or negative view? If they never receive any training, I think I know what the likelier answer is.
There has been some good news though. Recently Skills for Health, the Learning and Skills Council and the strategic health authorities announced a £100m investment in training for health staff in England in the coming years. Don’t let it get frittered away.