The OfS funds the strategic interventions in health education disciplines (SIHED) programme. It started in January 2018 and is expected to run for three years, with a budget of £1 million per year.
The SIHED programme aims to:
- increase awareness of allied health disciplines
- increase understanding of, and demand for, higher education courses in small specialist allied health disciplines
- strengthen and diversify the delivery of the small and specialist disciplines covered by this initiative
- develop a better understanding of the student market for nursing, midwifery and allied health courses, including mature and male participation.
The disciplines in scope for targeted interventions are:
- therapeutic radiography
- prosthetics and orthotics.
Why we are funding this programme
Most nursing, midwifery and allied health (NMAH) pre-registration courses moved into the higher education funding system from 2017-18. In its 2017 grant letter to the OfS’s predecessor body, HEFCE, the Department for Education asked HEFCE to identify small and specialist NMAH programmes and implement measures to support them.
HEFCE allocated £1 million a year for three years to support a programme of strategic interventions in health education disciplines (SIHED). This work transferred to the OfS from 1 April 2018.
Activities funded by the programme
In 2018, the priority activities of the programme were:
- Delivering a marketing and communications campaign to support student recruitment to small and specialist allied health professions from summer 2018 onwards
- Developing marketing materials to support recruitment to these disciplines, from summer 2018
- Appointing outreach and communications officers in the four small, specialist subject areas covered by the programme
- Supporting a wider healthcare and allied health professional recruitment campaign
- Setting up a first challenge fund and inviting providers of podiatry and therapeutic radiography to pilot innovative ways of recruiting to their programmes, or delivering these programmes, from summer 2018 onwards. Read more about the funded projects
- Facilitating work shadowing opportunities in orthoptics from summer 2018 to spring/summer 2019. The SIHED programme will fund a fixed-term secondment of an existing professional to the British and Irish Orthoptics Society. Their role will be to develop agreements between NHS trusts and higher education providers, enabling the higher education providers to guide prospective students wishing to work shadow an orthoptist
- Funding a fixed-term role to increase capacity for prosthetics and orthotics work placements, from summer 2018 to summer 2019, allowing more students to study the subject. This role will also coordinate work on the implementation of the newly approved apprenticeship standards for prosthetics and orthotics
- Commissioning research into barriers to mature student engagement in healthcare, and how to address them
- Monitoring and evaluating the project and sharing good practice from autumn 2019.
In 2019, the majority of the activities are continuing, with some new elements:
- We will support wider awareness raising of all allied health disciplines within existing workstrands of the projects. This will include recruiting an allied health outreach officer and redeveloping some of the campaign materials to deliver a wider allied health message, as well as encouraging interdisciplinary approaches to recruitment and delivery through the second round of the challenge fund. There will be input from the Allied Health Professions Federation as they have now joined the Programme Board
- We are launching a second challenge fund, with a budget of £400,000
- We will commission a study of male participation in nursing, midwifery and allied health, which will seek to understand current differences in male participation to different NMAH disciplines to help understand and overcome barriers.
How the programme was developed
We had been working on subject-level vulnerabilities since the NMAH funding reforms were announced, and had identified a group of disciplines as being both small and specialist, and vulnerable. These are prosthetics and orthotics, therapeutic radiography, podiatry and orthoptics.
We worked with sector bodies and the professional bodies corresponding to these disciplines to develop a programme of activities to ensure their sustainability. These are:
- Health Education England
- The British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists
- The British and Irish Orthoptics Society
- The College of Podiatry
- The Council of Deans of Health
- The Society and College of Radiographers
- Universities UK (UUK)
- The Allied Health Professions Federation
The programme board is drawn from these and chaired by Professor Alistair Fitt, the chair of UUK’s healthcare research and education policy network.
How this programme is managed
The College of Podiatry has been awarded a grant to manage several major aspects of the SIHED programme. These include:
- commissioning a national marketing and communications campaign for the four small, vulnerable disciplines
- administering the Challenge Fund
- coordinating the outreach network.
Read more about the project on The College of Podiatry website
The OfS directly commissioned research on the mature student market, which is expected to report early in 2019. We will also commission research on male participation in NMAH.
We directly commissioned the evaluation of the SIHED programme, and we are engaging with government and sector bodies on the development of a wider promotion of healthcare disciplines and professions.