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E-learning to support the Healthy Child Programme

Cheryll Adams D(Nurs) MSc BSc(Hons) RN RHV Dip Man
Independent Adviser, Nursing, Health Visiting and Community Health Policy and Practice, Honorary Senior Visiting Lecturer
City University

In March 2011 health minister, Anne Milton, launched a course comprising 76 e-learning units to complement the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme for pre-school children

The Department of Health's Healthy Child Programme (HCP) is the overarching child health promotion programme in England.1 It is in two parts, one for pregnancy and the first five years, and the other for children aged five to 19. Each part was developed by an expert group of clinicians and researchers under the stewardship of Dr Sheila Shribman, National Clinical Director for Children.

The government is committed, through its Health Visitor Implementation Plan, to increasing the number of health visitors by 4,200 by 2015, and to reinstating their role in early intervention - in particular, in leading and delivering the HCP, and in working with communities.2 However, to achieve this goal, the confidence of those currently working as health visitors must be re-established through easy access to opportunities for up-skilling as well. Alongside this requirement, innovative new training is required to support the large numbers entering the profession.

The e-learning initiative is sponsored by the Department of Health, and led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH). The RCPCH worked in partnership with a stakeholder group of representatives from a number of other colleges and professional bodies to agree, develop and disseminate the programme of e-learning. They were:

  • The British Dietetic Association (BDA).
  • Community Practitioners' and Health Visitor's Association (CPHVA).
  • The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
  • The Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
  • The Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
  • The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
  • The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
  • The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT).

It supports the Health Visitor Implementation Plan, which is leading the increase in health visitors in the workforce, so will be of great value to all new health visitors entering the profession, as well as to those already in post, providing a unique opportunity to update their skills. It will also support skills development of health visitor teams of community staff nurses and community nursery nurses who help deliver the HCP.

As well as these workers, the intention is that the modules will also be accessed by obstetricians and gynaecologists, paediatricians, GPs, midwives, speech and language therapists, practice nurses, dietitians and anyone else engaged with delivering parts of the HCP. Anne Milton said: "Getting a good start in life is a key priority for the government. This country has a strong history of an effective and high-quality preventive health service that continues to protect and promote the health of children. The Healthy Child Programme is at the core of this service and is delivered by health visitors and their teams.

"This way of learning is an invaluable tool to help support new staff and will also be of use to existing staff to maintain and develop their skills."

The e-learning programme was written and developed by a team of subject experts, editors and authors drawn from a multiprofessional stakeholder group of health professionals. All content has been written to reflect the latest evidence-based policy and practice.

The purpose of the programme is to ensure that all those working with children and families have access to the training and information they require to deliver high-quality and consistent care and interventions. As a result of a high take-up of users on the programme it is expected the health and wellbeing of all children will benefit. It will support the government objective that all children be given the best start in life, which is also, of course, the aim of all those working with this age group.

The programme consists of 12 discrete learning modules, with each learning session taking approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. The modules have the great advantage of being available for use 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As Obi Amadi, Lead Professional Officer, Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (CPHVA) said on launch: "This resource allows healthcare practitioners to access and continue their professional development in an environment, and at a time and pace that suits them."

The strength of the e-learning modules is that they can be selected individually to meet specific training needs rather than being worked through consecutively. However, some do precede others and some need to be completed in advance of others; eg, the introduction provides context to the whole programme.

[[Tab 1. Healthy child]]

It is essential that anyone in the NHS working with children aged up to five and their families is aware of these units, as they represent a unique opportunity for skills updating and enhancement. While all will be of value to health visitors, other professionals may want to access specific ones; for example, practice nurses may focus on those on immunisation.

e-Process for learning
The user chooses and then works through each session in their own time. The session starts with a set of learning objectives. They are then given information with regard to the issues the developers and authors have agreed are the most important in relation to the topic under study. These may be presented using a range of different methods including script, video clips, interview clips with experts, lists for sorting and a range of other interactive material. After accessing this information their learning is supported by a range of learning tools, from questionnaires to case studies.

The learner may do these any number of times until they achieve successful answers. Key issues are also revisited in a brief test at the end of the session when the expected learning achieved is summarised. The user is also encouraged to identify additional learning they need to complete. Finally, they are provided with a range of useful references, including electronic links to information sources.

To give one example from the Introductory Leadership units: the user is asked to identify the characteristics of good leaders, having thought of someone who has impressed them. These are then checked against a list that is accessed at the click of
a button.

This is quite a simple action, but acts as a powerful approach to learning, as it is interactive and can be revisited any number of times by the student.

Department of Health (DH). Healthy Child Programme. DH: London; 2009.
Department of Health (DH). Health Visitor Implementation Plan. DH: London; 2011.

Health professionals in England
You can access the resources via the National Learning Management
System (NLMS) as part of the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) (contact your
local Learning and Development or Human Resources Departments for
access details)

Health professionals in the rest of the UK
You can access the resources via the e-Learning for Healthcare (e-LfH)
Learning Management System (e-LfH LMS)

Further details of the programme