Partnerships in action – public health
We work closely with our partners, associate education providers and commissioners to make sure we capture and reflect their priorities, concerns and perspectives. Here, we highlight two NHS Trusts delivering public health training through the OU.
NHS South Central
NHS South Central, now part of NHS South, covers a large area, all the way from Milton Keynes to the Isle of Wight. Head of Public Health Development Programmes Joanna Chapman-Andrews was looking for a training programme that would assess practitioners against a set of standards, and that could be accessed by staff no matter where they were based.
We chose The Open University because they showed the most imagination in what they could provide, and demonstrated how our staff could keep on learning and developing; and because distance learning enables our managers to study from wherever they happen to be. The ongoing support we get from the OU is excellent – they know exactly what our requirements are.”
The module they chose is Promoting Public Health, designed to develop skills in reviewing, critiquing and evaluating current health promotion policies – focusing on areas such as communication, community action, policy making, and delivering ethical evidence-based practice.
“We divided the students into three groups,” explains Joanna: “those who could easily put together a portfolio; those who need a little bit of pointing in the right direction; and those who need more support. But this is another advantage of OU learning – they can all work at their own pace. The course makes learning accessible to our managers, and it is delivered with consistency and professionalism. And of course, the new skills they acquire as a result can only be good for the patients they serve in the wider community.”
"This is a life-changing opportunity that maximizes people’s potential by helping them develop personally and progress professionally. The OU’s pre-registration nursing programme is an excellent and effective way for us to support professional development for our staff, it works out well for everyone. "
NHS Derbyshire County
Julie Hirst is a public health specialist at NHS Derbyshire County, and she also teaches the OU course Promoting Public Health to practitioners within the Trust.
We first linked up with the OU a few years ago,” explains Julie. “We already had a good health promotion department and the assistant director asked me to help with a skills audit. People come into public health from lots of different backgrounds, so we had a lot of skills and experience, but there were quite a few staff with no qualifications.”
Julie and her colleagues searched around for a suitable module and even created their own, but it proved too short. “Then we discovered the OU course. The content was exactly what we wanted; it was affordable; and employees could do it while they were working.”
The Trust looked at various models for delivering the module, including:
• sponsoring individual students who would be allocated an OU tutor
• sponsoring a whole group, who would then get their own OU tutor
• finding someone in the Trust to become the course tutor.
They chose the last option – with Julie as tutor: “You needed a Masters degree, and I had one! It really appealed to me, so I applied and got the job. In the first year all fifteen of my students passed and five got distinctions, so I must have done alright!”
“That was in 1999, and we have been teaching the course ever since. We always get more applications than there are places. I think The Open University is an ideal training partner – it’s an excellent way for individuals working in the NHS to learn, and fits perfectly with its principles of social justice.”