NHS England (formally Health Education England) is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health and Social Care. By providing national leadership for the NHS, they aim to deliver world-leading research, innovation and technology to provide better outcomes for their patients and communities.
NHS England tasked us with gathering research evidence to validate the effectiveness of pre-employment activities on the recruitment and retention of healthcare students and workers. This aimed to build upon our original Discovery research to inform the development of a national digital pre-employment service, and challenge assumptions surrounding the value of work experience in health and social care.
The main goals for the research were for the client to understand the following:
- Is a prospective learner more likely to enter a healthcare training pathway if they have work experience?
- Is the attrition rate during training lower for learners with work experience?
- Is the employment attrition rate lower for qualified healthcare staff with work experience?
- Does the location where someone completed their work experience influence where they decide to work once qualified?
- Does the type of work experience (e.g. shorter vs longer, or online vs in person) impact attrition rates?
A multi-disciplinary team delivered the research evidence work and consisted of a service designer, two user researchers, a data analyst and a senior delivery manager.
What we did
- Conducted five stakeholder interviews and 33 one-to-one user interviews
- Analysed a healthcare worker experience survey with 235 responses
- Analysed a work experience data survey with 20 responses
- Analysed a education administration data survey with 11 responses
- Developed concept prototypes
- Mapped evidence against hypotheses to reach conclusions
Through one-to-one interviews we engaged users with and without work experience, at various stages of their professional journeys. The three user groups included young learners who are yet to undertake any formal healthcare training, current healthcare students, and those who now work in health and social care. An experience survey also helped us to further define the impact of work experience on the healthcare workers group.
These research practices were combined with qualitative and quantitative data gathering into how work experience coordinators, apprenticeship coordinators and university administrators currently collect and collate data on the effectiveness of work experience from their individual perspectives.
The resulting findings sought to understand the impact of work experience on users in three distinct phases of their career: impact on early career decisions, impact on their training, and impact on their career itself.
We then mapped the evidence back against 13 distinct hypotheses, allowing us to make a narrative judgment about each, and identify any gaps in the evidence.
Our research enabled us to present a detailed set of 28 findings to NHS England across two show-and-tell presentations, and a comprehensive report.
Most notably, the findings included:
- Work experience does have a positive impact on the recruitment and retention of staff in health and social care.
- A work experience placement of longer than one week does not affect the likelihood of a young learner entering a health training pathway, which could lead to increased efficiencies in this area.
- The location of a work experience placement is not a factor in determining where healthcare students decide to apply for their first roles.
Our overarching recommendations included next steps, concept prototypes which built upon the previous Discovery’s work, and service journey mapping to consider from pre to post-attendance of a work experience placement.
NHS England now has a clear set of recommendations to consider before moving forward onto a pre-employment service Alpha.