Havant and South Downs College (HSDC) this week unveiled innovative new classrooms at its Waterlooville campus that will give more than 70 healthcare and science students a ‘real insight’ into working life.
The rooms, that feature a hospital ward, three laboratories, an IT room and a mock-up apartment to practice home visits, will be used by pupils enrolled on new T-levels (qualifications equivalent to three A-levels) for health and nursing, medical and healthcare science and laboratory science – as well as pre-T-level diplomas in applied science and health and social care.
As part of their two-year courses pupils will also be offered work placements with local employers including the University of Portsmouth, Solent NHS Trust and Colten Care. And at the end of training they will be qualified to work as a nursing associate or healthcare assistant, or be ready to enrol in relevant apprenticeships or degrees.
Former nurse and programme leader for health and science at the college, Emily Pease, said: ‘We’re not just delivering things from a book, we can really bring it to life. One of the things we’re doing is working with our local NHS trusts to train students to fill skills gaps locally. This means our students will have the knowledge and capability to begin their careers with the NHS and remove some of the pressure caused by staff shortages.
‘This T-level gives the best possible experience to show students what nursing in the NHS is like.
‘It more than prepares them for their next steps, so we are certain HSDC is training the next generation of healthcare workers who will bring a range of skills and expertise to careers in health services across our area.’
Funding for the rooms came from government as part of a wider £4m investment into the college to prioritise certain sectors.
As well as the new workrooms, the college has purchased a variety of top-of-the-range equipment including the CAE Juno patient simulators, which offer a range of scenarios for students to monitor symptoms and conditions and decide what treatment the patient needs.
Richard Barlow, the college’s deputy principal, said: ‘The large numbers we have recruited make us very proud of how we will be helping the NHS in the future.
‘The government has prioritised certain employment sectors to be in the early waves of T-levels so that colleges like HSDC can train the next generation of professionals, and the healthcare sector is certainly a high priority.’
It comes as the union Unison warned of around 90,000 vacant posts in the NHS nationally, with stress and burnout from the pandemic threatening to exacerbate this.
And results from the biggest survey of NHS staff, published in March, showed almost two thirds of NHS staff believed there are not enough people in their organisations to enable them to do their job properly, with more than four in 10 saying they feel unwell as result of their job.
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Roger Batterbury, from Healthwatch Portsmouth, said NHS staffing levels locally were ‘concerning.’
‘I am aware there are many vacancies in health and social care in the area, which is of great concern to everyone.
‘Covid obviously has put extra strain on healthcare services but there are multiple reasons why we are facing shortages.
‘We would welcome any opportunity for people to train in healthcare and go on to have jobs in the sector, I think the fact colleges are coming up with innovative ways to fill healthcare vacancies is absolutely brilliant. I would urge any people considering it to look into these courses.’
T-levels were introduced last year but this is the first year subjects in health and healthcare sciences have been available.