Published on 24 January 2023
Digital Skills Development Networks are regional collaborations between NHS, health, social care and other local organisations, who work together to provide a range of training and development opportunities for their workforce. Some networks focus on the digital health workforce, while others are now working with their local Integrated Care System (ICS) to include digital colleagues in both health and social care, as well as voluntary and third sector organisations.
While there have been Digital SKills Development Networks in a few areas for some time, a Health Education England (HEE) programme has supported the establishment of networks in all regions of the country. HEE has provided initial set up funding, funded support from established regions and established a national coordination committee to enable regions to work together and learn from each other. In the longer term, the networks are funded through an organisational levy from each of the member organisations and so have the autonomy to provide the services specifically needed in that region.
The networks allow for the effective sharing of information, updates, and offers to digital health and care colleagues across England, as well as enabling feedback to be shared from the regions to national teams. In addition, the networks carry out a training needs analysis, source learning opportunities, and offer the chance to bulk buy training courses to provide better value for its members. The networks also provide formal learning and a chance to network through special interest groups, network meetings, webinars and conferences.
The networks aim too:
- Enhance the capacity and capabilities of individuals, teams, and leaders
- Increase the professionalism of all staff within the network
- Share good practice and knowledge across the region
- Measure and raise standards in digital health
- Enable networking
- Support collaboration with colleagues on joint programmes of work
Some regions carry out additional activities to meet the above aims, these include:
- Peer assessment of informatics departments
- Exploration into enhancing digital literacy for the whole workforce
Each regional network carries out an annual workforce profile exercise, giving a breakdown of numbers of staff in different roles. This may include collecting data on educational achievements, membership of professional bodies, and equality and diversity information.
Currently, the networks are playing a key role in the development of regional and national digital workforce plans, led by NHS England's Transformation Directorate. These plans are crucial to attracting, developing and retaining a talented, professional workforce to enable the successful digital transformation of the health and care sector.
The networks also provide input into both local and national events, such as the recent NHS Digital Academy Alumni event. Here the regional networks hosted an afternoon roundtable event looking at the continued development and maturity of their region.
As the networks go from strength to the strength, we hope that many more organisations and individuals will become involved. If you would like to find out more about the networks or how to get involved in your region, please email [email protected].