The Trust during the COVID pandemic
When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, as with other education providers, we had no option but to stop our face-to-face teaching activities. We had already been using Zoom for some meetings, and it became the natural choice of platform for continuing our teaching online. With efforts from our Technology Enhanced Learning team, our Training Executive and other colleagues across DET, and with considerable flexibility from our teaching colleagues and our students, we have been able to run our teaching almost entirely online, since March 2020. Depending on how the national situation develops in 2022, we hope to be able to resume some face-to-face teaching. We will of course be following NHS and government guidance in making our decisions.
A move to online teaching has been challenging in many senses, not least for our Trust as we rely on close communication and experiential learning. We have engaged with our students more directly and more frequently in this period, to learn what is working well and what we might further improve. For the first time in DET, we have made use of the Trust’s Quality Improvement initiatives to track the student experience. Overall, our student feedback has been very positive, with the vast majority of our students able to progress in their studies during the pandemic. We are working to consider what good practice we might retain in the longer term, from our experience of teaching online within the COVID period.
We have now started the current and the previous academic year while teaching entirely online. Demand for our courses has remained very high, in many cases increasing from pre-COVID levels. This has been very gratifying, and doubtless in part reflects the renewed focus on mental health and wellbeing.
Prior to the pandemic, the Trust had already begun preparations to deliver courses online through the development of our Digital Academy, a new online learning platform.
The Trust has a reputation for quality education and training provision that is recognisably distinctive and valued, and growth in student numbers over the past years had demonstrated high levels of interest in the Trust’s training. The Digital Academy was developed in order to meet this growing demand and, perhaps more importantly, enhance access to our training for all learners across the UK and beyond.
We launched the Tavistock and Portman Digital Academy in September 2020 and since then have reached nearly 2,000 people in 60 different countries. Our online short courses range from one-hour webinars through to year-long foundation courses, and we have exciting plans to expand our offer further in the coming years, building on our rich heritage of learning and teaching innovation.
In addition to our postgraduate courses, the Trust has, for many years, also offered a wide range of other training opportunities and CPD courses, developed and delivered by our expert NHS clinician-tutors and integrating a rich variety of theoretical perspectives, the most up-to-date clinical insights and research, and vital space for reflection, discussion and experiential learning.
At the onset of the pandemic, with the help of a hugely flexible and dedicated team of course leads and facilitators, we were able to instigate a swift move online for the majority of our CPD courses. Whilst the initial few months were very challenging for all, they also proved an invaluable learning curve and set us in good stead for developing our programme of courses for the coming months.
Since then, we have delivered over 140 CPD courses online, to over 3000 students from the UK and abroad. The most significant impact of moving all of our provision online has been an increase in accessibility to our courses – we are seeing a marked increase in geographic spread of our students from outside of the London area, when compared with previous years.
We have also been continuing to work with commissioners around workforce training and development, particularly within other NHS Trusts and local authorities, delivering 114 training activities to over 50 different commissioners from around the UK.
Looking forward to 2022, we are planning to continue building on the success of our online provision, focusing on specific areas for development of new training opportunities and continuing to work closely with commissioners.
In the last year we have also extended the reach of some of our clinical models and practice. Mindworks Surrey is a new emotional wellbeing service for children and young people following the THRIVE Framework for system change. Our Family Drug and Alcohol Court model is now being embedded in more local authorities. We have also set up a new service with our partners at Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London Hospital, for children and young people who are facing complications relating to excess weight. Within our North Central London service provision we have been commissioned to widen our remit to earlier intervention for young people who do not fit the criteria for a specialist eating disorder service, but who have disordered eating.
We are also expanding our Fostering, Adoption and Kinship Care offer through the Adoption Support Fund to bring assessment and interventions to more looked-after children and young people. Within the Integrated Care System in North Central London our Chief Clinical Operating Officer, Sally Hodges, is also leading the CAMHS improvement work at ICS level, which we hope will continue to ensure our approach adds value across the local sector.
Staff across the Trust have worked very hard through the pandemic to keep services open and accessible. Many of our services have seen increased demand and waits which adds an indeterminable mental pressure. However, our unique contributions remain highly valued and we have remained focussed on the delivery of high quality therapies and applied work across a range of sectors. Sadly, the Team Around the Practice service was decommissioned this year, which was a great loss.
Despite substantial external review and evaluation, there is pressure on access to psychological therapies. We are currently working with a coalition of partners to improve the proposed NICE guidelines for the treatment of adult depression and ensure a greater focus on talking therapies.
Our Office for Students registration
In December 2020, the Tavistock and Portman became the first NHS Foundation Trust to gain registration with the Office for Students (OfS), the UK’s regulator for Higher Education.
Being registered with the OfS means that we have demonstrated that:
- we provide well-designed courses that deliver a high-quality academic experience for all our students
- we support students from admission through to completion
- ensure students’ outcomes are valued by employers or enable further study
- we award qualifications that hold their value over time, in line with recognised standards
- we pay regard to guidance about how to comply with consumer protection law
- we have the financial resources to provide and deliver the courses advertised
- we have the management and governance arrangements necessary to provide and deliver the courses advertised
- we have a published Student Protection Plan setting out the risks of course, campus or provider closure and how it will protect our students’ interests in such an event.
We are also able to be more engaged with developments across the Higher Education sector to the benefit of students and staff and this increases our capacity to offer the best learning experience and career progression to our students.
We are very proud of our OfS registration, and hope to continue to progress our education and training offer at the Trust.