Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 40

To meet the requirements of the Department of Health's Working Together, Learning Together strategy, East Kent Hospitals trust has appointed a lifelong learning adviser.

Although not yet rolled out across all of the trust sites, during the first year of the project more than 300 trust employees met with the adviser. These included 60 of the 80 staff from the East Kent linen service, an area in the NHS workforce where training needs have been difficult to assess. There has now been a large take-up among this group of places on programmes to improve IT and literacy skills.

A number of organisations with prior experience in providing 'skills for life' joined East Kent Hospitals trust in formulating the role, and helped to ensure that internal and external liaison went a long way to informing the work of the adviser.

These include the Kent and Medway basic skills consortium, Kent guidance consortium and learning providers such as Learndirect.

The post was developed through the work of a partnership steering group incorporating trust employees, external trainers and staff representation. Questionnaires were distributed to help people identify their learning needs and to filter through by word of mouth to other staff. Information to managers raised the programme's profile and its function in supporting the skillsled agenda.

Information useful to the learning objectives and working practices of the life-long adviser are also disseminated via a 'skills for life' reference group. Membership includes the NHSU, other NHS trusts, unions and the National Open College Network.

The impact of the project on the lives of the laundry staff has been felt beyond the confines of the workplace. Two members of the team travelled to London recently to appear at a National Institute of Adult Continuing Education conference. The introduction of an English for Speakers of Other Languages course will see the reach of the adviser's role extend into the domestic setting.

This has seen a measured improvement in morale and given staff who might otherwise have missed out a way to get on the skills escalator.

For more information contact Vanessa Hine on 01227-766 877.