Any system for managing learning and development must be able to change over time, says Arif Ahmed

Healthcare organisations need a system to cope with current and future levels of learning and development activity.

A learning management system can automate these processes to relieve the administrative burden but in a cash strapped NHS, with regulations changing all the time, how can organisations be sure their investment is lasting?

Narrowing the field

Most systems are designed for corporate bodies and are unsuitable for NHS organisations that have complex, specific terminology and training needs. A system that speaks “NHS language” will be easier to use, especially if you are considering rolling out self-service learning like Hertfordshire primary care trusts or Sandwell PCT.

Having considered your sector, next consider your functional needs. Common basic needs include:

  • A learning management system must be more than just an administrative tool; it must help manage learning provision, track attendances and results and prove compliance.
  • NHS organisations need a system that mirrors their processes; it works out more costly and complex if the system or the organisation’s processes have to be tailored to fit.
  • Senior managers need strategic information for both internal and external needs, now and for the future. The system should support the right data fields and make it quick and easy to enter and retrieve data.
  • Reporting requirements continue to increase. The system needs to support automated reporting and include tools for standard and ad hoc reports.
  • Mandatory refresher training is an increasing burden - the system should include booking reminders.
  • Increasingly NHS staff have access to email, so the system should support automated email communications where they are more likely to reach the recipient, reducing did not attends, for example.

Practical considerations

It is important to assess the potential longevity of the system and its ability to cope with organisational and NHS change.

For example, there are huge changes in the type of learner the organisation needs to consider and how it communicates with them. The increased move to separate service commissioning and provision may mean an increase in the use of external staff.

The push to provide more patient care in the community and the increase in mergers in the NHS are resulting in fewer, larger and more geographically dispersed health service organisations.

The organisation is responsible for the training and compliance of all staff, so the system must offer secure, remote access for every individual user, no matter where they are based or whether their employment status is permanent or on contract.

In recent years, a related trend has been the adoption of self-service learning and e-learning to manage the needs of larger and more diverse workforces. A system that can be used for this could be of greater benefit in the longer term, even if the organisation has no current plans for self-service, as it will avoid duplicating costs, training and effort if it later decides to introduce self-service.

The drive to increase e-learning in the NHS means the system should offer an effective platform for e-learning delivery and tracking, automatically updating the users’ records to ensure accurate compliance monitoring.

Common standards

Learning and development departments are producing more reports on different metrics for a variety of internal and external initiatives and workforce planning.

A system that will be future proof is not restricted to a set number and type of reports; rather it facilitates reporting on any topic, including diversity, and offers negative reporting to make it easier to deliver data for the clinical negligence scheme for trusts.

A future proof system needs to be able to respond to policy changes with rapid upgrades and to be easy to integrate with new management information systems, so one based on common technology standards is likely to be best.