A short course offering a rapid induction into the world of healthcare and the NHS has been designed by the University of Central Lancashire for IM&T workers taking jobs in the sector.

The university hopes to run the five day Fast-Track Fundamentals programme in the autumn when the first cohort of participants has been recruited.

The course is aimed at people new to the health domain; those who have worked in healthcare but are new to the NHS; and NHS people who want to get a broader picture of IT and information management in the service.

Course leader, Jean Roberts, who lectures at the university and is also policy task force lead for the British Computer Society’s health informatics forum, explained: “It just seemed so pertinent to all the issues there are at the moment with people from [Connecting for Health chief executive] Richard Granger downwards suggesting there are not enough appropriately qualified staff.”

Inspired by a trip to Canada where she heard about ‘boot camps’ for clinicians wanting a short sharp introduction to healthcare informatics, Roberts thought a similar formula might work for people who have expertise in a generic area, such as project management, but who want to understand the context of the NHS.

“It’s not just that we need more project managers. We’ve got LSPs developing solutions in Mumbai and Seattle and Gillian Braunold, a CfH clinical lead, seeking clinicians to go and help them set their work in context. These informatics professionals and others elsewhere involved in the development and implementation of new solutions need to understand the model of care delivery, the model of financing and the context to informatics to support care delivery,” she explained.

In addition to delivering the facts about how the NHS works, the course will aim to help participants understand the sensitivities and pressures in a 24-hour, year-round organisation where systems cannot be shut down easily and patients do not stop arriving.

“For example, if you have just mended a PC for the intensive care unit and turn up when a patient has just crashed, they’ll tell you to go away. You have to be sensitive to what they are doing,” says Roberts.

The course will include an introductory day assessing the participants’ current knowledge and giving an insight into how care delivery works. A core three day component of the course will look at the complexity of information handling in the health domain and examine issues such as patients’ participation in their care and information governance.

On the final day, there will be an examination of external boundaries looking, for example, at the influence of government and the European Community and some futurology exploring developments in areas such as citizen empowerment and ambient technologies.

Quick courses such as Fast-Track Fundamentals will not make participants eligible for registration with the UK Council for Health Informatics Professions (UKCHIP), the regulatory body for IM&T professionals working in healthcare, because level one registration requires at least one year’s work experience in the health domain.

However Roberts hopes the course will be recognised as a positive step towards registration by the regulatory body, which is aspiring to introduce mandatory registration for UK health informatics professionals in around three years’ time.