Sir David Behan, Chair of Health Education England, has met ‘adaptable and committed’ healthcare students from Sheffield Hallam University as part of a virtual visit.
As one of the largest trainers of healthcare professionals in the UK, with more than 3,500 students currently enrolled in health-related courses, Sir David heard about Sheffield Hallam’s approach to innovative teaching delivery, alternative routes such as degree apprenticeships, and the University’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sir David, who chairs the body responsible for education, training and workforce development in the health sector, took part in an interactive roundtable discussion with a group of students and alumni, all of whom have plans to establish a career in the NHS following graduation.
The students - Rebecca Atherton, Helen Metcalfe and Hannah Peck - outlined their experiences of studying during the Covid-19 pandemic, how practical training has been delivered at the University and described the NHS work placements they have undertaken.
There was also discussion around the response of Hallam students to Covid-19 in April, when more than 600 final-year nursing and allied health students volunteered to join the workforce to battle the pandemic.
Alison Heblich, who recently graduated as a Higher Degree Apprentice in BSc Health Science, talked about her experience of studying whilst working in a hospital. Through the degree apprenticeship route, Alison was able to put theory into professional practice and use her healthcare science work in real life situations, and is now a cardiac physiologist at York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Alison said: “Fulfilling my Degree Apprenticeship at Sheffield Hallam has not only taught me about clinical and professional practice. As a healthcare scientist, it has also taught me so much about myself, to strive to achieve things that I never dreamed I could be capable of with the support of my tutors.
“I will never forget this experience and in these changing times, my training will underpin and support my ongoing professional development.”
As part of the visit, Sir David also met with senior leaders from the University and College of Health, Wellbeing and Life Sciences to discuss key challenges and opportunities such as innovation in teaching delivery including digital learning, placement challenges, future needs of the NHS and its workforce, and Sheffield Hallam’s ambition as a leading institution for healthcare education delivery and partnership.
Sir David said: “In the face of what is an unsettling and difficult time for us all, it’s been inspiring to see how Sheffield Hallam has risen to new and unexpected challenges since the Covid-19 outbreak began, and I’d like to express my gratitude to both the university and students for their perseverance, adaptability and commitment.
“Covid-19 presents unique challenges for training, but it has also led to a more innovative environment for students. It is essential that the education, training and placements of students are protected so we can ensure all students meet the requirements of their registration body. By supporting this future workforce, we protect the future of the NHS, and Sheffield Hallam is rising to that challenge.”
Dr Schwarz, Dean of the College of Health, Wellbeing and Life Sciences, said: “We were delighted to welcome Sir David to Sheffield Hallam to discuss the future of the NHS workforce and meet some of our wonderful students.
“Never has the discussion around NHS workforce development been so important. As a country and sector, we are facing profound challenges, so as one of the leading healthcare training universities in the country, we were really pleased to share our ambitions around innovative teaching delivery and meeting the needs of the NHS – and find so much common ground with Sir David and Health Education England.”