The NHS Training Hub for Operative Technologies in Healthcare is part of the government's drive to increase adoption of technology by the NHS. Paul Vousden sets out his strategy to support better patient care and deliver efficiency benefits to the health service

When I took over the running of the Training Hub for Operative Technologies in Healthcare in mid 2007, I realised quite quickly that so many people were involved in setting the agenda that the training body was in danger of lacking relevance or impact.

Intended to accelerate change by improving and increasing technology take-up, the hub was instead suffering the fate of many government initiatives because it was too wide ranging in its remit.

The result: a mismatch between "blue skies thinking" and those real "issues on the ground" that affect NHS staff and patients day to day.

To address this, I created a new strategy to ensure we focus on the issues that are important to the NHS today - a strategy that explores solutions for those key areas where technology might have an impact.

Skills bank

Underpinning our mission is the understanding that the NHS must build a bigger skills bank to deliver the exciting new medical technologies and innovations needed for an improved and more effective health service.

Too often, crucial skills lie with only a small minority of professionals and, until now, the UK has had a poor record of adopting new technology when compared with other European countries.

With this in mind, we have drawn up a new "four-square" approach, which targets:

NHS reconfiguration:

From polyclinics to new mental health strategies, our projects look at the education and training implications that arise as control moves away from the centre and into local communities.

Mobile technology:

Addressing the growth in primary care delivery and new ways of caring for patients in the community, we are examining the training needs now arising, with projects including remote care for the elderly and for patients with serious, chronic disease.

Patient safety:

Exploring new ways to encourage patients to be more involved in their care, our focus responds to an increasing need to communicate and engage with patients in a meaningful and participatory way to deliver better health outcomes.

Education and awareness:

Our approach recognises that health professionals and patients need to understand and support the move towards a more modern and technologically advanced NHS.

Providing an anchor for staff and stakeholders, this strategy is now shaping our work programme. Several projects have already been rolled out and new ones are in the pipeline.

Covering issues from infection control to training in simulation technology, projects are selected for their urgency and usefulness.

We are concentrating on "live" training needs that will produce the maximum benefit for clinicians and patients, focusing attention on those areas in which we can deliver tangible benefits.

Looking ahead

The hub currently has a limited shelf life, determined by its original funding. This certainly concentrates the mind. But it also motivates us to look at how we can go forward, to generate a real income commitment from NHS stakeholders who recognise the benefit and relevance of our work.

Technology can play a pivotal role in the improvement and transformation of the NHS and delivering better healthcare for patients in a wide range of settings.

Thus, the hub is committed to creating the evidence-based education tools to ensure the safe introduction and use of advanced medical devices. Because in healthcare, trained people are as important as the medical technology itself.