Case Study Profile

County Durham Healthcare Branch


All of the Bridges to Learning ULRs understand the pressures of undertaking learning while holding down a job and managing a family, and Sandra is no exception:

“Learning has always been something I like to do. I managed to get my ‘O’ levels at school but then went I straight into a job and it was only after I had my kids that I got back into learning.”

Sandra, the lead ULR for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT), started off with TUC courses in Spanish and History and, more recently, she has completed a TUC diploma in Employment Law and the OU Openings, ‘Starting with Law’ course, as well gain Level 4 Information, Advice and Guidance and PTLLS teaching qualifications. She is currently undertaking a Level 5 Diploma in Management and Leadership at Darlington College.

On top of all of this, Sandra manages to play an active role in UNSION, as the Vice chair and Branch Education Coordinator for County Durham Healthcare Branch, where she has been a steward since 2004 and a ULR since 2006.


Seconded for three years from her substantive post as a receptionist on the Pain Management Unit at University Hospital of North Durham, Sandra has seen the take up of learning soar across the Trust, largely as a result of her determination to give other people the same chances as she has had and to get them involved in something they enjoy. As a result, informal learning sessions have been held on a wide variety of topics, from Turkish to clippy mat making and from Christmas decoration classes to Spanish, which all became incorporated into the Trust’s learning directory.

This partnership approach has meant that the Trust appreciate the contribution that the Bridges to Learning resources have made, especially at a time when funds are increasingly scarce, as they have brought staff into learning that may have been hesitant in the past.

Sandra’s focus on the needs of her colleagues has resulted in CDDFT being one the first Trusts to offer programmes that lead to the new Functional Skills qualifications in English and Maths, which provides the necessary underpinning skills for promotion to higher level posts. In fact, such is her determination to understand these needs, she chose to be one of the first cohort of learners to follow the course and take the exam herself.

As a result of this initiative, there are now healthcare assistants in the Trust who are following the Bridges to Learning progression route, which combines NVQs with the Open University’s K101 ‘Introduction to Heath and Social Care’ and have set their target to become qualified nurses.

And now, with her recent qualification to teach adults under her belt, Sandra is enjoying delivering some of the informal sessions herself for staff in the Trust; as she says:

“Being involved in the Bridges to Learning Project is great because it enables me to get out amongst the work force to promote the learning agenda and inspire and encourage others to improve their education and self confidence.  This can lead to better career prospects and better paid jobs for individuals.”

"Being involved in the Bridges to Learning Project is great because it enables me to get out amongst the work force to promote the learning agenda and inspire and encourage others to improve their education and self confidence." - Sandra

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