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NHSScotland staff to benefit from RPL

Group of male & female NHS Orkney staff sitting at desks in training room

NHSScotland is to benefit from an innovative project led by NHS Education for Scotland (NES) in collaboration with the SCQF Partnership. The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Guiding Principles were developed to help NHS Scotland employees get recognition for learning from experience which occurs in the workplace, and learning from experience in life, to support career development.


A wide range of people can use RPL. For example, RPL can help employees demonstrate their SCQF learning level and identify a career pathway which meets career aspirations, or to gain credit for learning from experience which can contribute towards a qualification. RPL can also help employers better understand the range and levels of knowledge and skills in the workforce, and inform more effective targeting of resources to support workforce development.


A short-life working group developed the Guiding Principles which will ensure that RPL is person/learner centred, flexible, standardised, transparent, accessible to all, collaborative and quality assured. They can be used during NHSScotland’s recruitment, induction, succession planning and Personal Development Planning & Review processes.


As part of the pilot project, representatives from NES and the SCQFP created guidance materials to deliver bespoke RPL workshops for NHS learning and development leads interested in becoming part of the RPL pilot, for their NHS Board. The Workshop raises awareness of RPL and provides examples of how it can be used, which include an RPL five-step process.

Over the next six months the team are to run RPL Workshops for nine NHS Boards participating in the pilot. This will identify NHS Board RPL Leads who will support RPL activity in line with local requirements. A steering group will then be established to share RPL Action Plans across the pilot Boards and identify any barriers to success. The pilot will help to refine the resources required to help embed the RPL Guiding Principles, prior to the national roll out in 2021 for NHSScotland.

There are several perceived benefits associated with RPL for both learners/employees & for NHSScotland:

Perceived benefits for learners/employees:

  • Provides opportunities to reflect on learning gained through experience, raising an awareness of an ability to learn, leading to an increase in confidence and self-esteem
  • Helps to benchmark to demonstrate SCQF learning level, identify gaps in knowledge and plan a learning programme to fulfil their potential in line with career aspirations
  • Enables a learner/employee to continually build on their previous learning, avoiding duplication and to receive recognition for previous learning, reducing the amount of time needed to gain a qualification
  • Reflective learners will help find solutions to issues, influencing change for the better


Perceived benefits for NHSScotland

  • Values employees’ skills and identifies learning gaps within the workforce, leading to improved delivery of safe, effective, person-centred care and encourages people at every level
  • Improves staff retention, leading to reduced staff turnover, minimised duplication of learning and reduced costs
  • Supports and widens access to learning and development opportunities across NHSScotland within a supportive environment, where careers are flexible and full of possibilities, to attract and retain the workforce needed for a healthier Scotland.


Anne Marie Rennie, Specialist Lead: Recognition of Prior Learning for NES, said: “It is great that we have managed to recruit nine Boards for the RPL pilot. It shows that there is a real desire to enhance learning opportunities across the NHS Workforce. The Recognition of Prior Learning Guiding Principles will help employees get recognition for learning from experience, and help make the transition from informal learning to formal learning, if they wish.”

Networking, cooperation and exchange of experiences between the different Boards and learning providers will significantly contribute to the success of this project.


For more information on the pilot, contact the NES team.

About the author

The SCQF Partnership

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