23 Mar 2021, 6:36 p.m.

The learning technology team at Gloucestershire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (GHNHSFT) has been named Learning and Development Team of the Year, at the fifth Our Health Heroes Awards, for their rapid delivery of an eLearning package that helped ensure more staff had the skills to care for people with respiratory problems, within days of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Today more than 300 NHS and social care staff came together virtually, with sector and government leaders for the ceremony, where Edward Iles, Learning Technology Manager at GHNHSFT was presented with the coveted award by John Clark, Head of Awards and Assessment Services at SFJ Awards.

Healthcare professionals submitted more than 600 nominations across nine award categories, including 100 for this closely contested category.

John Rogers, chief executive at Skills for Health, said: “Edward and his team exemplify just why we hold these awards: to bring national recognition to those who produce extraordinary work and demonstrate absolute commitment to their jobs, and without whom, our NHS and healthcare sector would simply not be the same. This award is a testament to their hard work, dedication and sheer tenacity to improving skills and patient outcomes, at such a crucial time.”

Delivered by Skills for Health, with the help of partners NHS Employers, UNISON, SFJ Awards and Bevan Brittan, the annual Our Health Heroes campaign shines a light on the extraordinary efforts of thousands of healthcare support staff who work hard behind the scenes to keep the system running. After a year in which the NHS faced its toughest ever challenges, the first anniversary of the first UK lockdown was an apt day to be recognising, reflecting, and celebrating the difference to people lives these unsung health heroes continue to make, day after day.

At the onset of the pandemic, healthcare professionals around the world quickly identified there was a knowledge gap for the wide range of non-respiratory nurses and clinicians who were being diverted from their specialities to work tirelessly where COVID-19 patients needed hospital care. Doctors and nurses were finding themselves rapidly redeployed from their areas of expertise to suddenly caring for patients experiencing complex respiratory symptoms.

While solutions were being sought by a wide number of national and international organisations, it was evident to GHNHSFT that to wait for a respiratory eLearning programme to be developed could be catastrophic to patients, and therefore an in-house solution was quickly requested to be found. Edward and his team diverted all of their resources and delivered a ‘Critical Respiratory eLearning Package’, within just 5 days.

To do this effectively, the team joined forces with the Trust’s Professional Education Team, who have respiratory care subject matter experts, who could provide the essential detail required to develop a fit for purpose eLearning package. Working together, the Teams gave the project absolute priority, to miraculously produce the amazing package within a very short window.

Deborah Lee, Chief Executive at GHNHSFT said: "Like healthcare providers across the globe, we had to respond to a rapidly-evolving situation that none of us had ever experienced before. With our clinical teams being diverted from their own specialties to care for patients who were experiencing complex respiratory symptoms, our eLearning team recognised an urgent need to up-skill teams and produced this world-class eLearning package, incorporating the latest advice from subject experts.”

As soon as the package was made live, word quickly got out, and it was picked up by Health Education England (HEE) and numerous other medical and clinical leads. What followed was an onslaught of requests to access the package, and within its first few days of being live, it was shared with 50 trusts nationally. It was not long before it was being implemented in countries all around the world.

Deborah added: "In the spirit of sharing knowledge and expertise which characterised this unique time, our package was shared widely and quickly became a go-to resource for healthcare colleagues both in the UK and around the world. We are not only delighted to have such an excellent and responsive team at our Trust but also very proud that this resource has helped so many others as they strive to provide the best care for patients with COVID-19."

This phenomenal piece of teamwork not only had a significant impact on the pandemic response of NHS staff, and other healthcare staff far and wide, it also raised the bar within the trust, and made the entire workforce think outside of the box to overcoming barriers once considered never to exist. Now sitting on the HEE Learning Hub for COVID-19, the package has had a direct effect on patient care, improving the outcomes for COVID-19 patients.

On receiving the award Edward said: “The team is incredibly proud of receiving this award. Although we do not work on the front line, the package was our contribution to the fight against COVID-19. From the outset, we planned to develop the training rapidly to be shared inside the trust, but we were incredibly proud when we started to get requests from external organisations. To see the package’s reach grow daily during March and April 2020, gave the whole team a great sense of achievement.”

For more information about all of this year’s Our Health Heroes winners and to watch the ceremony on demand from 24 March, visit skillsforhealth.org.uk.