To coincide with Armed Forces Day 2022 (Saturday 25 June), Leicester health professionals have launched a major new research project which could provide solutions to the NHS’ staff shortage crisis by helping veterans transition into civilian careers.
The University of Leicester’s Armed Forces into Allied Health project pathway, established in 2019, is the first in the UK to map qualifications gained in the armed forces to the entry requirements for courses in Operating Department Practice (ODP) and Physiotherapy.
Now Leicester’s project leader will collaborate with their counterparts at the universities of Plymouth and Suffolk to better understand the national picture with research funded by Health Education England.
The first stage of research will include a survey of existing Allied Health professionals with a military background. Researchers hope to gain an insight into the qualifications – at Level 3 and above – which individuals gained in the armed forces and were able to transfer to civilian training programmes.
With a national shortage of Allied Health professionals, it is hoped that formal recognition of veterans’ existing knowledge and education will both boost participation and realise the untapped potential of armed forces personnel transitioning to civilian life.
Amanda Cox, Lecturer in Operating Department Practice within Leicester’s School of Allied Health Professions, leads the project which will also inform her PhD research in transition to healthcare careers. She said:
“We’re really proud at Leicester to have pioneered the Armed Forces into Allied Health Project, which properly acknowledges the hard work and qualifications undertaken by armed forces personnel looking to transition into a healthcare career.
“But we recognise that this pathway doesn’t exist on a national scale – that’s why we are working with Health Education England and both Plymouth and Suffolk to expand our research and see what challenges veterans may have faced.
“We hope to use our findings to create an equitable national pathway which not only opens up opportunities for a large group of people, but could also provide some solutions towards tackling staff shortages in the NHS.”
The research is funded by Health Education England, which provides national leadership and coordination for the education and training within the health and public health workforce in England. Paul Chapman, National AHP Programme Manager for Health Education England, said:
“Ensuring the future supply of an Allied Health Profession (AHP) workforce is a key objective for Health Education England (HEE) and workforce planning. The HEE AHP programme has been working closely with colleagues at Step into Health to raise the profile of the 14 AHP professions and encourage former and current Armed Forces personnel to look at an AHP profession as future career choice.
“Armed Forces personnel have extensive transferable skills that allow them to meet and support the transition to that of an AHP career. The University of Leicester’s AFIAH project pathway is an excellent initiative that can assist and support Armed Forces personnel to join those who have already taken up a career as an AHP.”
Dr Rosi Raine, of the School of Health Professions at the University of Plymouth, said:
“At Plymouth University we are really happy to welcome ex-armed forces personnel onto our Healthcare Programmes. We are also looking forward to working with Health Education England, the University of Leicester and the University of Suffolk: together we hope to take this project forward and make a difference.”
Zoe Grant, Senior Lecturer in Therapeutic Radiography at the University of Suffolk, added:
“University of Suffolk are excited to be collaborating with University of Leicester and University of Plymouth on this project. Here in East Anglia we have several Armed Forces bases with service personnel choosing to complete degrees in Allied Health professions when they leave.
“There are known challenges for ex-Armed Forces personnel in applying for Allied Health degree programmes and hopefully this project will ensure all HEI’s have a better understanding of the qualifications gained during service and how these translate into the requirements for course entry.”
Armed Forces personnel who have transitioned to a career in Operating Department Practice or Physiotherapy are invited to complete the short anonymous survey here.