There is a lot to be said for sharing best practice, learning from others and having an opportunity to give feedback directly to those who can make improvements. That is why Skills for Health and the Department of Health have developed six national demonstrator sites to show how workforce tools and strategies can help healthcare managers address local and regional needs.

The sites showcase how the products and services being developed by Skills for Health, the sector skills council for the UK health sector, can be used on the ground. They are building a strong track record demonstrating best practice, workforce development tools and underlining the importance of national occupational standards.

The idea behind the initiative is to demonstrate Skills for Health competencies and test them in practice. A range of tools are being tested and evaluated by many healthcare organisations, and we are supporting employers with training and awareness workshops on how to use the tools.

The workshops provide an opportunity for our teams to gather feedback on tools and to offer practical advice and guidance to those using them. Healthcare managers can choose from more than 2,000 competencies available on the Skills for Health website.

Flexible tools for healthcare managers

South Birmingham primary care trust is acting as a demonstrator site to develop competencies for the role of community support nurse. This is a new role in school nursing and provides services to vulnerable children. Eighteen competencies have been mapped to the new role, enabling managers to identify the skills needed. Early feedback has been extremely positive, with favourable reactions to the way the competencies allow healthcare managers to search for the best person for the role.

Feedback from Whittington Hospital trust in London, another Skills for Health demonstrator site, has also been positive. Competencies were used to design a job profile for a therapy assistant role. Healthcare leads have appreciated the flexibility of a competence-based approach to role design, with the work leading to development of an education and training programme.

Our work also includes profiling innovative ways of learning through our higher education demonstrator sites. This major piece of research centres on employers and higher education providers working together to evaluate learning and how they can better support new roles.

For more information on the competences database see www.skillsforhealth.org.uk