Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Learning Agreement/Union Learning Reps - Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust

It is widely recognised that more needs to be done to encourage, invest and focus on the learning and development needs of NHS staff working in bands 1-4.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and its staff side, where there is already a positive history of partnership working and staff involvement, embarked on a project to enable this group of staff to take responsibility for their own education.

Taking into account the aspirations of the trust, its staff and trade unions provided different methods of lifelong learning, supported by well-resourced colleagues in local areas to promote the opportunities.

Together, they designed a learning agreement between trust management and staff side, jointly committing to support development of all staff, but particularly in those groups traditionally less well supported. The learning agreement was refined and approved by the Trust Education Resource Management Group, which has representatives from all staff groups and staff side.

Ownership of the project remained with staff side throughout with the trust providing part-time administrtaive support, funded by the Local Education and Training Board (LETB).

They recruited union learning representatives to build a network of ‘champions’ for staff development, who then worked together to support promotional activities, plan learning needs assessments and to deliver access for staff to these opportunities working with the Trust’s Education, Training and Development (ET&D) department.

The project began with the principle that people can be enabled to work effectively through education, coaching and mentoring, which leads to improved employee engagement and performance and, consequently, better patient care.

Dino Williams, staff side chair at the trust, said: “This learning agreement project aims to facilitate the development of services so that they better meet the needs of patients, service users and the public through investing in all members of staff and encouraging their development.”

The learning agreement was launched at a series of open events in February 2014, where the agreement was signed and staff were able to find out about all the different learning opportunities in a marketplace setting. Employees within the trust, who had already benefitted from learning opportunities, including apprentices and a facilities manager, gave talks.

At the start of the project, only one learning representative was known to the staff side team but there are now 42 individuals who put their names forward for such a role. This was a significant achievement given the number of sites within the trust and the fact that prospective learning reps wouldn’t truly understand what the role involved until the detail was provided at the events.

The learning representatives are supporting effective evaluation of the learning interventions in partnership with the trust’s ET&D to ensure that there is transfer of learning and a return on investment through career progression.

A learning representatives’ committee has now been created, which is being extended to include learning representatives from departments as well as unions.

The trust board, management and staff side believe that by encouraging staff to proactively engage with learning, the learning agreement will encourage productivity and has the potential to reduce absenteeism. Provision of effective training keeps staff feeling motivated and valued, which in turn has a knock-on effect on loyalty and retention of staff.

Dino Williams added: “The impact of managers on morale is immeasurable. So investing in and letting employees know that they are valued and appreciated through recommended training and development and designated time off to do this, is perhaps the most important element in creating unified teams with great morale.”

For more information please contact:

Dino Williams: dino.williams@gstt.nhs.uk