Doctors and nurses, physicians and clinicians are essential to any healthcare system, but educating these and other medical personnel is equally important. Health Education England (HEE) is a newly established strategic body in the United Kingdom, created to oversee healthcare staff training and education programmes. Already, HEE has identified two key areas that staff training ought to focus on during the next few years: dementia, and early childhood care.
Dementia is the illness most feared by people in England over the age of 55, yet in the past it has not received the attention it needs; inspiring the Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia, which was launched in March 2012. The government's goal is that the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with dementia in England should be among the best in Europe.
Health Education England agrees. HEE will support training for staff to deliver better prevention and care to patients with dementia and similar long term conditions. Training will enable staff to help patients and their families manage these conditions. Important aspects of this training may include teaching medical professionals how to support at-home caregivers; showing how self-management can make it easier to live with a long term illness; and exploring the role of the wider community in bettering dementia care.
HEE will provide leadership through Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) in the development of training programmes. With better training, medical staff are more equipped to work with dementia patients, and especially to diagnose early symptoms of dementia. Identifying the disease in its initial stages can make a great deal of difference in providing preventative care, and preparing a family or at-home caregiver for medical issues soon to come.
To train doctors and other medical staff further, HEE is also proposing that all staff responsible for the care of dementia patients must undergo a basic dementia awareness training scheme. This foundation course is aimed at ensuring that staff can identify dementia at an early stage, work with dementia patients, and offer caregivers the support they need. HEE is aiming to have training plans in place by late 2013, to ensure that 100,000 staff go through basic foundation level training before April 2014.
HEE would also like to see programmes for higher level staff who are already experienced in working with dementia patients. Even experts in dementia may be unaware of the mental health problems that sometimes accompany patients with long term, degenerative illness. with better training, staff will be better able to address the care of dementia along with a mood disorder or other mental illness.
Working with Higher Education Institutions, HEE is also planning to ensure that all new nurses have the necessary skills to work with an increasing number of older people entering the UK healthcare system. Post-graduate courses for nurses, courses that focus on the complex needs of older patients, may be further developed in the future.
This focus on dementia - a growing problem in an ageing population - is counterbalanced by the overall HEE mandate, which also gives priority to medical care in the early years.
To enable children to get the best start in life, prevention and treatment services from pregnancy through to adolescence and young adulthood need to be high quality, evidence-based and safe. These services need to be delivered in the right place by a properly planned, educated and trained workforce. Doctors and nurses in this field need a holistic view of a child's needs and development, in order to offer support as the child grows.
In order to achieve better health services for children, HEE is encouraging the National Health Service and other public health groups to work together and create more training programmes for medical professionals who work with young people. For example, HEE is planning to work together with Public Health England to created education programmes for teachers and nurses dealing with school-aged children. When local authorities are supported by specialist public health teams, children living in that community have better access to comprehensive health and development services.
Of course, maternity care is likewise important, and HEE want to ensure that midwives and other maternity staff throughout the country are well trained, and prepared to offer every woman personalised, one-to-one care throughout her pregnancy.