As most NHS organisations, we had to rethink how we deliver the training during the pandemic, especially our regular NHS Pathways training sessions. This is a clinical tool used for assessing, triaging and directing the public to urgent and emergency care services when they contact NHS 111. The sessions are comprehensive and compulsory for everyone working in NHS 111, both clinical and non-clinical, to pass before they manage patient enquiries and at regular intervals during their tenure, Gareth Lankester, our NHS Pathways and Systems Training Manager tells us about his experience innovating our training approach and why he enjoys working at HUC.

Popularly known as “Mr Pathways” for his vast training knowledge, Gareth started 12 years ago, working at the Urgent Treatment Centre at Hemel Hempstead Hospital.

As NHS Pathways and Systems Training Manager, Gareth was heavily involved in the move away from the traditional training in a classroom and assisted with the introduction of a blended approach during the pandemic. “I am proud that HUC have been a part of initiating the roll out of a revised NHS Pathways training approach across England”, says Gareth. He considerably contributed to this scheme with his expertise and HUC experience.

Indeed, NHS Pathways training is an integral part of a career in NHS 111 and at HUC. “All new joiners in the NHS 111 services go through at least four weeks of training, which enables them to assess the immediate needs of patients who contact NHS 111 and address their relevant healthcare concerns”, explains Gareth. “It includes signs and symptoms to look out for, how NHS 111 works and how our other services including the Clinical Assessment Service and Unscheduled Care services fit within the bigger picture. “

“None of my days are the same. We meet so many different candidates with varied backgrounds throughout the year. And then there are days when I’m hopping from one meeting to the next, all about different things — catching up with the trainers, ensuring the trainees are being looked after or managing things that creep up during the day,” he says. “Our training team also support other NHS 111 service providers like Devon Doctors and London Ambulance Service,” he adds.

Elaborating on life as a Training Manager, Gareth says, “I do deliver training myself, too.”

In addition to his extensive Pathways knowledge, Gareth can still be found in the call centre when he picks up a shift as a Senior Shift Manager. That, he says, enables him to understand operational backgrounds better and having a real connection to the practical environment. “I still take 111 calls as it really helps me with real examples,” he says.

As our organisation is growing, since October 2021, the training team have trained over 200 candidates – a record number. “We have a candidate catch-up meeting every week, which is where we look at all of our trainees across our contact centres who are currently in training to see how we can best support them.”

What Gareth absolutely loves about his job is seeing both the trainers and trainees happy when they’ve passed. “It’s a sense of achievement for both groups,” he exclaims, adding, “It’s great when they come back and say ‘I took my first call’, or ‘I delivered my first baby over the phone’ or ‘someone said thank you to me today’ — that for us is the best feeling ever, knowing what they’ve achieved and seeing them so happy.”

About working at HUC, Gareth says, “HUC is a great place to work and it’s the people that make it more special. My colleagues across the organisation – whether they are a driver I might have never met but I’ve spoken to on the phone hundreds of times as a Shift Manager or a new candidate or even our Chief Executive Officer –  we all work together and we are all like a big family.”