As the trainer at South Western Ambulance Service’s A&E control room in Exeter, Andy Inniss faced a problem. The control room staff work 168 hours a week on a variety of shift patterns in a fast changing and stressful environment. He works 37.5 hours a week.
“I don’t mind doing overtime,” he adds quickly. “But it seemed to me I could work 80 hours a week and burn out or I could think of a better way to do things.”
This is what he did – and why colleagues not just in the south west but up and down the country voted Inniss Healthcare ICT Champion of the Year in the E-Health Insider Awards 2009 in association with BT.
On a budget of less than £1,000, Inniss has developed a range of interactive e-learning tools that can be delivered to the trust’s 2,500 staff at home, over its intranet or at a work-based PC, via the web or on CD/DVD.
They incorporate systems that automatically track take-up and completion of training modules, providing users with certificates that they can add to their electronic Knowledge and Skills Framework. He has shared his work with ambulance services UK-wide, with over half using now his programmes.
Finding the right software
All of this was sparked by a project to train 160 staff in SWAS’s two control rooms in Exeter and St Leonard’s in Dorset as they implemented an updated triage system, AMPDS (Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System) version 12. It was, says Inniss, a big, big job.
Both Inniss and his counterpart in Dorset, Pete Duffin, are national AMPDS trainers and had joined-in discussions at the national AMPDS user group about e-learning. At the same time, Inniss was discussing a training programme on pandemic flu with the SWAS flu lead, Mike Bottone.
“We thought we could do something flu related and use the budgets that were available for swine flu initiatives to buy some software that we could then reuse for other programmes,” says Inniss.
He bought two packages. First, the award-wining Articulate e-learning package for designing and developing interactive presentations, which includes the tracking software. Then AutorunMagick Studio to create dynamic and interactive applications for autorun DVDs and CDs.
The combination meant he could design innovative presentations to engage staff, and embed the e-learning software into autorun CDs. Presentations could be accessed via the SWAS intranet, over a shared network or put onto CD-ROMs, making them available not just to control room staff but to anyone in the trust with a training need but without the bandwidth to use them on the web.
According to Inniss, this package was not only “fantastic value for money”, but also ticked several other boxes. “We are an aspiring trust, so anything I do needs to show good governance, high quality and an evidence base.”
He is particularly keen on the tracking system built into Articulate. It allows him to track who is accessing the software as they log in to the system and it automatically generates emails to a dedicated inbox when users take a test within a training module.
It even reminds home users on CD-ROM to email their test results and automatically generates a form for them to use. Users can print off their own certificates or add them digitally to their eKSF which underpins annual appraisals. Eventually, results may be incorporated into the NHS’ Electronic Staff Record.
“I was doing a training programme with staff the other week,” Inniss says. “The system automatically monitored the test results from 110 people, allowing me to get on with something else.”
Spreading good ideas
Colleagues have been keen to pick up his work. “I’m not precious about anything we produce and I am happy to share it,” he says. “We have tweaked the software and the AMPDS programme is now being used in Scotland, Belfast, Wales and the North West.”
He has also worked closely with the East and West Midlands ambulance services, as well as London and Yorkshire, and is now developing a training package on conflict resolution with the Dublin Fire Brigade. “This is all about getting the best value and working much better with the wider NHS,” he says.
Yet Inniss is adamant that he is not a computer whizz. “You need good knowledge but you don’t need to work in the IT department to do this,” he says.
“On the production side, it is really about using your imagination and playing around with stuff.” For example, he is now using video clips of staff at work to illustrate some training packages and adding music to liven them up.
He has lots of ideas about other ways to use the software to improve training. For example, it may be possible to move all the A4 policies and protocols that control room staff have to read,sign-off and update regularly onto the e-learning system.
The flu pandemic module that started it all has now been used by 2,500 staff at SWAS – and generated a lot of interest. “More and more managers from other departments are coming to me and saying they need training modules for their staff, for example on reporting vehicle defects.”
Inniss was delighted to win the award. He has worked in the control room and understands the pressures and says his training job is really about making the lives of control room staff easier.
“I know what a tough job it is so I don’t complain to them about my workload,” he says. “I have worked really hard on this and it’s nice to be recognised for that; it’s nice to have that validation from the control guys who voted for me.”