At Whittington Hospital trust in London, a Skills for Health demonstrator site has been set up to design a new therapy assistant role at assistant practitioner level.

Two clinical therapy assistants - one with a focus on the care of older patients and the other working closely with stroke patients - are in roles mapped against Skills for Health competencies.

Anthony Clarke and Emma Hicks, both previously healthcare assistants, were seconded into the posts and have been working at the hospital's Jeffrey Kelson unit since April and June respectively. Here, they give an insight into the role and the training they are completing.

Anthony Clarke - therapy assistant, care of older people

I start my day with the physiotherapy team for a handover of the patients to be seen that day. This is an ideal time for me to pick up referrals and plan patients into my schedule.

I spend most of my day working with the patients on my caseload. I need to decide and agree with the patient when I am going to see them for therapy to ensure we get the best result and meet the goals identified for them. I like to work flexibly with them as this helps me to build a rapport. I don't want people saying 'oh no, not you again!'

I am learning so much, for example, how to document in people's notes correctly, how to use equipment such as standing hoists and walking frames and how to fit equipment to ensure patients are safe and independent when they go home. All these things relate to objectives in my learning portfolio, which I am working my way through, getting feedback on my performance.

What I love about my role is that I am being trusted to carry out the therapy with the patients and that my feedback is valued by the therapists, nurses and the wider multi-disciplinary team. I can see a real difference in patients once I start working with them and this really motivates me to keep learning new skills.

Emma Hicks - therapy assistant, stroke

I receive referrals for patients from the occupational therapists and physiotherapists in the neurology team. I work on specific goals identified with the therapists and patients in weekly goal-planning meetings.

My day usually starts with helping patients who have suffered a stroke to wash and dress. I encourage them to use their affected limbs or teach them to adapt the way they do things to compensate for any loss of movement. I then help to hoist the patient into a wheelchair to encourage them to sit out and gradually increase the time they are able to do this for.

In my new role I understand much more about the anatomy and physiology of the brain and why people present differently when they have had a stroke. I am learning this as part of my role and once I can demonstrate that I have met all the requirements of competence, they can be signed off by my supervisor.

I see patients progress quickly with the therapy input I give and this aids earlier discharge from hospital. I am learning new things in my role all the time, and my knowledge and confidence to complete the objectives identified in the learning portfolio is continually growing.

Training for the future

The Whittington Hospital has devised an education and training package for therapy assistants using Skills for Health's range of competencies. This will allow post holders to work towards a national vocational qualification in occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

Skills for Health is the sector skills council for the UK health sector (the NHS, independent healthcare providers and voluntary organisations). Its purpose is to develop solutions that can deliver a skilled and flexible workforce to improve health and healthcare.

For more details about the full range of competencies and workforce development tools, visit www.skillsforhealth.org.uk