Care home group benefits from Assistant Practitioner Degree Apprenticeships

Hillcroft Nursing Homes Ltd, a care home group established in 1991, with six locations across the Lancaster area, have been using Degree Apprenticeships to train their staff as Assistant Practitioners for several years.

Gill Reynolds, Director of the group which employs around 350 staff, explains that this came about as a result of the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy. Gill says: “We were looking at ways that we could use this pot of money. How could we do that and how could it benefit the company?”

She continues: “One of the things that we're always talking about in health and social care is about recognition for care staff. One of the things that people feel once they come into care is: ‘Is that it? Am I just a carer? How can I progress? I still want to learn.’” And Gill also recognises the importance of the university experience for her apprentices, saying: “You've got people who have never thought in their lives that they would get the opportunity to go to university. We wanted to be able to provide teaching face to face, week by week and that was why we approached UCLan.”

At Hillcroft, Assistant Practitioners work alongside Registered Nurses and Matrons, providing care to residents and taking on a supervisory role, managing the day-to-day organisation of a team of care staff, and liaising with clinical professionals and external services. Gill explains how the Assistant Practitioner course equips staff for this role: “While we do have carers who can be Senior Carers without doing the Degree Apprenticeship, the clinical skills that the Assistant Practitioners gain help them to go that step further.”

"We wanted to be able to provide teaching face to face, week by week and that was why we approached UCLan."

Gill Reynolds, Director at Hillcroft Nursing Homes Ltd

Hillcroft also places great value on fostering an environment where staff feel confident to give feedback, allowing the home to review and improve their procedures. Gill has noticed that for Assistant Practitioners, willingness to speak up has increased along with their skills and knowledge. She says: “They’re contributing more. With learning and experience they feel like they've got the knowledge and the authority to be able to speak out, and give ideas, and challenge things.”

Gill has also noticed a benefit that she wasn’t expecting, with the increased confidence and enthusiasm of the Assistant Practitioners rippling out to longstanding nursing staff. Gill explains: “Sometimes when you've been qualified or worked in a job for a long time and when you work alongside somebody that's newly qualified it makes you think ‘Oh yeah, that's why I did it!’ I can see that [experienced staff] are getting that. It gives you fresh impetus.”

Gill is confident in recommending Degree Apprenticeships to other employers and says that Hillcroft will continue to train both existing staff and to directly recruit external candidates as apprentices. Summing up, she says: “We've got a little gang of people to add to our existing group of very safe and experienced staff. They’re very fulfilled and have a lot more job satisfaction than they had before. The residents like them and it has helped the business.”

"With learning and experience you feel like you've got the knowledge and the authority to be able to speak out, and give ideas, and challenge things."

Gill Reynolds, Director at Hillcroft Nursing Homes Ltd

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