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 its first year (January 2018 - March 2019), 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
- 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. The budget for this Challenge Fund was £225,000. Read more about the funded projects
- Funding a fixed-term secondment to support the development of work shadowing opportunities in orthoptics from summer 2018 to summer 2019, enabling the higher education providers to guide prospective students wishing to work shadow an orthoptist
- Funding a fixed-term role to increase capacity for and diversity of prosthetics and orthotics work placements, from summer 2018 to February 2020, allowing more students to study the subject
- Commissioning research into barriers to mature student engagement in healthcare, and how to address them, which was published in March 2019
- Monitoring and evaluating the project and sharing good practice from autumn 2019.
In its second year (April 2019 - March 2020), the majority of the activities are continuing, with some new elements:
- We supported wider awareness raising of all allied health disciplines within existing workstrands of the projects. We recruited an allied health-wide outreach officer and redeveloped some of the campaign materials, and the 'I see the difference' website, to deliver a wider allied health message. The Allied Health Professions Federation have now joined the Programme Board
- We also encouraged interdisciplinary approaches to recruitment and delivery through the second round of the Challenge Fund, which had a broader focus on encompassing nursing, midwifery and allied health. We ran a competition in spring 2019 and allocated an overall budget of £440,000 across 10 projects. Read more about the funded projects
- We commissioned a study of male participation in nursing and allied health, to better understand current differences in male participation to different healthcare disciplines and propose approaches to help overcome barriers. Read the report on male participation in NMAH
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, published in March 2019. We have also commissioned research on male participation in nursing and allied health, which we are expecting to publish in autumn 2019.
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.