Henrietta Mbeah-Bankas, from Health Education England, discusses digital learning and development for the health and social care workforce

For day two of HTN Now September 2021, we welcomed Henrietta Mbeah-Bankas, Head of Blended Learning and Digital Literacy at Health Education England. This presentation discussed the future of digital learning and what steps can be taken to help improve digital literacy.

Henrietta started her presentation by highlighting three topics – People, Process and Technology, she stated: “So how are we planning for the future? What sort of digital skills will we need for the future? We will need informaticians, we will need data scientists, so it’s about these technical roles as much as our clinical and non-clinical staff having the digital capabilities and skills that they require, to be able to carry out their roles effectively and efficiently.”

Henrietta spoke about the importance of culture in any organisation looking to become more digital: “Understanding what we can do with our people is key to developing any digital organisation.

“As we think about our people, we are working with different personas or digital user personas. How do people use digital? How do they engage with it? There are four personas, that we absolutely must hold in mind because they support our intervention and how we support those digital users to develop their confidence and their skills in fully utilising the tools that are available to them.”

The four digital personas, as Henrietta explained are: positive engaged, neutral ambivalent, negative disengaged, and digitally excluded.

Henrietta commented: “I think in all our interventions when we think about people,  we need to think about these personas and what we specifically put in place to support them.”

Health Education England have an extensive digital readiness programme, as Henrietta outlined the ultimate goal of the programme: “Digital readiness focuses on how do we ensure that we’ve got a health and social care workforce who are digitally ready.”

“For us, digital readiness is as much the skill as it is the attitude, so there are four main areas of work, that we are driving the digital readiness programme through, so it’s about supporting the right culture and environment, and this is really geared towards our boards in understanding what it is to be truly digital. But more importantly, put the user at the centre of all decision making.”

To support the learning and development of the health and social care workforce, the NHS Digital Academy will be expanded as Henrietta explains: “We are now looking at the Academy in the broader sense of the word, not just this programme but as a learning academy, and exploring what inputs can we support other people on through a whole pathway role journey to reach the top of digital health leadership development.”

Under pressure staff may not be readily available for learning programmes like digital readiness, but Henrietta thinks it can be managed effectively: “Busy clinical and non-clinical staff haven’t got time to go around looking for learning but more importantly ensuring that that learning is quality assured and allows them to fill gaps in. What we have done is developed the self-assessment diagnostic tool but more importantly one that directs people to learning, to fill the identified gaps.”

As for social care and HEE, as Henrietta outlined significant progress will be made in the near future: “There’s been a digital skills review exercise conducted with NHSX adult social care which really is going to underpin some of the work that will be looking to do very soon.”

Having a single-entry point for digital learning and development is a priority for HEE as Henrietta said: “Our ambition within a digital readiness programme in terms of our digital learning and development, is to ensure that all learners will be directed to appropriate learning through one front door. If you want to explore fellowships, then go to X, if you want to explore bitesize learning, go to Y. We need all our health and social care workforce to be able to access one front door.”

Henrietta went on to show a video explaining how to use the digital self-assessment tool, that enables staff to measure their own digital capabilities using a simple survey. The tool is currently undergoing user testing as Henrietta outlined: “The self-assessment diagnostic tool is currently being tested in Health Education England and 61 other organisations across the country.”

The next part of Henrietta’s presentation discussed coaching, mentoring and shadowing and the effect digital champions can have: “Certainly within our own organisation in HEE, we have seen the impact of digital championship, and we have published some toolkits. Certainly, we have one for health now and one being developed for adult social care which should be published in the next month.”

Henrietta was keen to stress the importance of the Shuri network, an initiative to promote BAME women in digital health, as she explained: “The focus has been women of colour if you are not a woman of colour, it doesn’t preclude you from engaging with the network, because the network has allies. The network is really keen to work with anybody and everybody to support shadowing opportunities, but also again provide that either formal or informal, mentoring and coaching.”

Henrietta ended her presentation with a slide dedicated to what is next for her team and her work, moving forwards, with extensive work being undertaken in nursing, primary care, and mental health, and closer working planned with higher education intuitions as Henrietta concluded: “Our focus is to work with professional bodies like the Royal College of Nursing and other Royal Colleges to really drive the whole digital learning and development through everything we do, because that’s how we start shaping our workforce for the future.”

To watch the full session, view the video below: