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Working together brings real results for the NHS and Social Care

Published: 15 September 2005

Managers across the National Health Service have praised students from the University of Southampton and the University of Portsmouth for making a difference through their project work. Hundreds of second year students on medical, nursing, physiotherapy, pharmacy, social work and other programmes pooled their talents and worked together in multi-disciplinary team

This is part of the Universities' pioneering New Generation Project which sees students from across the spectrum of health and social care programmes come together as part of their learning. In all, 1,350 students in teams of around a dozen people undertook project work in the NHS, social services and other organisations across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Projects included:

* An audit of care at the Petersfield Community Hospital, East Hampshire where patients are helped to live at home again after a stay in an acute (general) hospital.

* Researching and compiling directory of services and facilities for parents of older children with severe learning disabilities at the Rose Road centre in Southampton.

* An audit of services for developmental co-ordination disorder on the Isle of Wight, comparing facilities locally to those in Devon.

"If you want something done, get a multi-disciplinary team!" said Sarah Baines from the Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust, which specialises in mental health. She welcomed a team including student nurses, doctors, a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and social worker who undertook a project auditing systems around the prescribing of heroin substitute drugs.

"Everyone started at the same point, no-one knew much about substance misuse" added Sarah. "All were fascinated by the subject and found learning about the experiences of some of our clients powerful and even traumatic. We hope some will want to work in the field of mental health when they qualify. But, even if they don't, they will know much more about the conditions we deal with than the average student."

Projects ended with a presentation of the students' work to staff, managers and directors of the relevant NHS Trust or organisation. In many cases, the assignments were adopted and used by the organisation.

New Generation Project Director Professor Debra Humphris said: "We were delighted at how well the projects worked. Our students rose to the challenge of tackling complex work in new fields, working together with people from other disciplines. We have received many compliments from the NHS Trusts and other organisations and secured placements next year in the same areas."

Fareham and Gosport Primary Care Trust supported several projects. Director of Professional Development and Clinical Governance Fiona Cameron said: "We were overwhelmed by the quality of the assignments and will certainly invite more groups of students to carry out pieces of work for us."

Chantal Gosselin from the North Hampshire Hospitals Trust added: "We were very impressed by the way these inter-professional teams learned from and with each other. One group drew up new observational charts which are now being used as standard across the Trust."

Nicky Sinden of the Portsmouth Hospitals Trust said: "The students helped us review a leaflet about stillbirths and medical terminations given to parents. Although this is an emotive subject, they did very well and it was a very positive experience."

Judy Gillow. Director of Nursing at Southampton University Hospitals Trust, said: "We were delighted to welcome the students from the New Generation Project. They set an excellent example of successful multi-disciplinary team working and contributed to various projects including an evaluation of the Trust's spiritual health service. We certainly will want to continue our support of this innovative work-based learning initiative."

"Having been involved with the development of the New Generation Project from the very beginning it was important to me that Social Services were fully involved in providing placements for students. I am delighted to say that the placements went so well that my managers are now developing projects for the next placements and see this not only as a contribution to developing multi-agency learning but also as a very helpful way of having particular issues or problems explored by these very keen and able students," commented John Beer, Executive Director of Health and Social Care at Southampton City Council.

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