The Foundation degree of Arts in Health Care Practice is delivered by University Campus Suffolk and is suitable education for individuals aiming for Assistant Practitioner roles.
- A Foundation degree is educationally at Level 4 in Year 1 and Level 5 in Year 2 i.e. educationally equivalent to the first two years of a full Honours degree (a nursing or therapies degree covers Levels 4, 5, 6).
- The course runs over two years and includes a weekly taught session at the university.
- Applicants will be required by UCS to pass an initial assessment and attend an interview to ensure that they can work at the required level and are committed to this intensive course.
- The course costs £4,400 per year (a total of £8800) if funded by Health Education East of England – self funders pay a higher fee and would need to contact UCS directly to confirm this cost.
- Once learners have completed the Foundation Degree they will have achieved the academic level and undertaken educational content required to become Assistant Practitioners.
Health Education England strongly encourages the employing organisation to make the most of the education that the individual has received and to develop an Assistant Practitioner role for the individual that has completed the Foundation Degree. If an individual completes the Foundation Degree but their employer decides to keep the individual in their original role after the Foundation Degree, then it is unacceptable for the employer to expect the individual to use their higher level skills without upgrading their role to that of an Assistant Practitioner.
The benefits of Assistant Practitioner roles are wide ranging and well-documented.
- Assistant Practitioners are the most senior role below the registered professionals and can be found in therapies, nursing, social care or in hybrid roles (with more than one of these elements).
- They can manage their own case load of non-complex cases under the indirect supervision of a registered professional.
- They can lead a team of health care support workers and provide coaching to more junior roles e.g. those undertaking the Care Certificate or Level 2/3 Apprenticeships in healthcare.
- They are educated to be challenging and to question processes and techniques for the benefits of continually improving patient/service user care.
- Their roles can be designed to meet a specific area of need or service provision e.g. discharge co-ordination or running clinics.
- Assistant Practitioners are encouraged to continually build their professional profile through CPD e.g. developing specialist knowledge in specific subject areas such as diabetes care, wound care, stroke rehabilitation etc. It is accepted that in some areas of practice APs can develop deeper levels of knowledge in specific areas than registered professionals making them an essential component of a multidisciplinary team.
- Some individuals that have completed the Foundation Degree choose to ‘top up’ their Foundation Degree to full Honours by completing a final year at Level 6 (note: this final level is not funded by Health Education England).
The contents of an Assistant Practitioner role must be based on the core standards for Assistant Practitioners as described by Skills for Health. This generic core to the role can be supplemented with additional competencies for that specific Assistant Practitioner’s role. Some employers require that their trainee Assistant Practitioners complete a competency portfolio to evidence their practice competencies alongside the Foundation Degree, similar to those for the new Care Certificate – this is a best practice approach and highly recommended.