Cornwall’s Health and Care partners to 'grow own' workforce

An innovative ‘virtual’ Health and Social Care Academy has been launched to create health workers and carers for the future. 

Health and social care in Cornwall is undergoing transformation with the Shaping our Future programme bringing health and council providers together to create a more joined up and integrated system.  However some proposed improvements are thwarted due to an existing chronic shortage of workforce often caused by potential workers being unable to afford to give up jobs to attend college to get necessary qualifications.    

However a unique solution was unveiled last Friday at the Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre in Truro when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by members of a new health, care and academic partnership planning to tackle the problem. Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT), Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT), NHS Kernow and Cornwall Council plan to use the apprenticeship levy to pay students to join a new ‘virtual’ Academy while they train for professional roles.   

Successful graduates must then commit to remain working in the county for at least two years.   Academic partners supporting the scheme include the University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, University College St Mark and St John, Callywith College and Truro and Penwith College. It is hoped the Academy will also make for improved social mobility of people within Cornwall, which is at a very low level.   

Phil Confue, CFT Chief Executive said: “If we didn’t come up with a different approach to recruitment and training there would be an additional 114 vacancies in the mental health workforce alone than in 2016. This would be repeated across the different care groups. While a strategy of attracting more people to move to Cornwall to work in health and social care is one approach, this would be being tried by every area in England; rather Cornwall has started to embark on the process of “growing our own” staff to meet these gaps.” 

The first academy intake will be autumn this year and will include registered nurses (adults and mental health) and also Clinical Associate Psychologists.  “This is a custom made solution for Cornwall,” said Kim O’Keefe, RCHT Director of Nursing. “In creating the academy we hope Cornwall will also remain at the cutting edge in developing new roles and apprenticeships for health and social care.  The Clinical Associate Psychologists role is a new one that has been created to provide every secondary school in Cornwall with an in-house psychologist and with the new Academy we are currently looking at how we can fund and deliver a Nursing Associate role for Cornwall with Plymouth University.” 

Chairman of the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Armand Toms said: “This is Shaping Our Future delivering an innovative solution to a major problem in Cornwall - for Cornwall.   People who have aspirations to work in Health and Social Care will be able to do so without the financial barriers currently in place at present. I congratulate all those involved in this project and will monitor its progress. his is working together at its best.” 

Cornwall Council portfolio holder for adults Councillor Rob Rotchell said: “The need for more health and care staff to cope with Cornwall’s ageing population is a pressing one and this academy is a practical, positive step forward to help the situation.  In Cornwall we have a rapidly growing elderly population, currently 1 in 4 of us are over 65 so we need to make sure we have enough people to take on a caring role to meet this increasing demand.” 

Guest speaker, Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Chief Nurse from Health Education England described the initiative as “a real step in the right direction” and applauded local leaders by coming up with a plan that was not driven by money but that had been created by identifying local need.