Case Study Profile

Newcastle Hospitals Branch – John Wears


In the six years that John has been a UNISON ULR he has seen how his role has evolved from being to essentially about engaging people in learning to playing a strategic role for UNISON in the learning agenda. His own experience of the WEA’s Return to Learn course inspired him so much that he decided to become a ULR so that he could help other healthcare assistants and ancillary staff to start their learning journeys. Six years later John, with IAG and a teaching qualification under his belt, is now a tutor on the Return to Learn course, his own first stepping stone into learning. Like other Bridges to Learning ULRs, John’s own development path gives him credibility and makes him approachable to people, especially those who need encouragement and support to get back into learning. Working with Helen Kilpatrick the UNISON Branch chair, John set out to put in place a whole range of engagement activities that helped kickstart Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s learning strategy. Over time their activities have grown to include learning surveys, healthcare topic-based workshops and English, maths and IT courses for hundreds of staff along with the provision of advice and guidance to thousands of their colleagues. At the same time the evidence from their learner database has helped shape the Trust’s strategy to harness the potential of all staff through learning.As a result of their success, John has been seconded to work as part of the Trust’s staff development team for the last two years. The success does not, however, stop there. When Skills for Health looked recently at setting up a national working group they contacted Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. As proof of the effective partnership working between the Trust and the UNISON Branch, John along with the Staff Development Manager took their place on the group to help develop the National Code of Conduct and Minimum Educational Standards for Bands 1 to 4 healthcare staff. “I am so pleased that I work in a team that believes organisations need to enthuse their Bands 1 to 4 staff for learning and release this talent. If we can do this, the rewards for patients and the Trust will be plain to see. And yet, as a healthcare assistant myself, I never dreamt in a million years that I would have an opportunity like this, and it would never have happened without the experience of being a ULR.”
“I am so pleased that I work in a team that believes organisations need to enthuse their Bands 1 to 4 staff for learning and release this talent." - John

Member Login