SEL Jobs Hub and local partners celebrate success of pioneering primary care SWAP scheme

11 Jul 2024

A new primary care–focussed employability programme in Southwark piloted by the SEL ICS Health and Care Jobs Hub, in partnership with local health and education providers, has delivered exciting results, with over half of the scheme’s cohort already securing a job in a local GP surgery.

Thought to be the first specifically primary care–focussed employability scheme in London — and possibly further afield — the GP Sector-based Work Academy Programme or SWAP scheme was co-developed by the Health & Care Jobs Hub, Southwark College, and participating Southwark GP practices including Elm Lodge Surgery, Forrest Hill Practice and 306 Medical Centre.

Southwark College, with the Health & Care Jobs Hub, has supported over a hundred local people into jobs and training in healthcare to date through the SWAP scheme with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.

Claire Reed, Assistant Principal for Skills and Adult Learning at Southwark College (NCG) said: “Southwark College, part of NCG, one of the largest college groups in the UK, has been working in collaboration with the Health and Care Jobs Hub to support our local community gain sustainable work. The Hub has provided essential support in setting up SWAPs aimed at getting people into work.

“The connection to local employers in the health and care industry has provided a strong link to connect local people to local jobs and have seen the positive impact this has had. The Hub has had a huge impact on raising awareness of the industry and given invaluable resources and support that would otherwise not have been there – illustrating the need for similar Hubs in other industries.”

Marta Van Dijk, Head of Faculty at Southwark College (NCG) said: “Participation in the GP SWAP pilot programme has been a resounding success for Southwark College. From the outset, the Hub team impressed the team at the College with their collaborative spirit and willingness that enables us to tailor the programme to perfectly meet the SWAP requirements and our students’ needs.

“The Hub’s support in securing a delivery room and equipment on-site was invaluable, and their responsiveness to our inquiries ensured a smooth and stress-free experience throughout. Most importantly, student satisfaction with the programme has been exceptional. We are strong advocates for the programme and believe it holds great promise for attracting more qualified individuals to primary care roles.”

With the support of the Primary Care Networks in Southwark, the Hub team were better able to engage with local GP practices and it also enabled the scheme to be piloted in the community at the Tessa Jowell Medical Centre.

Someone delivering the SWAP scheme tutorial at the Tessa Jowell Health Centre: a person is talking near to a big TV screen, delivering the training to a series of people seated around a table
Delivering the SWAP scheme tutorial at the Tessa Jowell Health Centre

Nigel Smith, Managing Director of Improving Health Limited (the General Practice Federation and PCN for South Southwark) said: “We were delighted to work with the Health & Care Jobs Hub and our partners on this employability (SWAP) programme. The SWAP has been a great success in supporting local people into the jobs in primary care which we hope will be a first step in a rewarding career. “

Candidates were either referred to the scheme by Job Centre Plus, or recruited via local careers fairs. To ensure they had the best chance of success, members of the Hub team also worked one to one with each member of the SWAP cohort to develop their interview skills and build their confidence.

This multi-partner approach, which built in the particular needs of primary care and included work placements to help candidates get a real sense of the job in advance, seems to have played a significant part in its success. The primary care pilot had an above average success rate in comparison to other SWAP schemes, with over 60% of the completing candidates securing a non-clinical job with a GP practice, to date.

Blackfriars Medical Practice, who subsequently offered jobs to two candidates, see the new scheme as a very positive development. René Mehta, Managing Partner said: “We found the employability programme an excellent way to connect our practice with potential employees who were genuinely seeking a career in primary care.

“There has been a historic turnover of administrative staff within all GP practices and having a course designed to meet those needs is an excellent addition to meeting that need. We’ve been fortunate to find two new receptionists at the first try and would encourage more practices to join the programme.”

With most successful SWAP scheme candidates taking up to 6 months to find a job, these results are very encouraging for everyone involved but especially the candidates themselves. Catherine Nages, who recently started work as an Access Hub Coordinator at Nexus Health Group’s Sir John Kirk Close Surgery, said: “Before I took the GP SWAP course I really wanted to work in healthcare, but didn’t know where to start as I didn’t have any previous experience.

“My tutor helped build my knowledge about health services and understanding about the importance of the NHS values. There were also practical exercises and presentations which gave me a real-world understanding of the responsibilities of a GP receptionist. During the training at the GP Surgery I learnt how to handle patient enquiries and manage busy reception areas which gave me a better understanding of what the job involved.

“The Hub team really helped me prepare for our interviews too, which made me feel much more confident and I was so pleased to get offered a job. I am really enjoying the dynamic nature of my new role and the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge I gained through my education and work experience.”

The Hub team have wasted no time in building on the success of this pilot, with a second GP SWAP already underway in Southwark. They are keen to expand the approach into other boroughs in south east London too, so if you are a health or care employer interested in finding out more, email or visit our page here.