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Date: Mon 3 December 2007

Minister endorses first NHS learning agreement in NHSHighland

Scotland's first NHS learning agreement will be signed in Inverness today (Mon 3rd December). The ground-breaking pact will boost staff training and support in NHS Highland.

Minister for Schools and Skills Maureen Watt MSP, and STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith will witness the signing at the Centre for Health Sciences at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness at 1.00pm today (December 3).

Maureen Watt will say "Learning is a lifelong process and everyone has the ability to build on their skills and unlock more of their potential. This historic agreement will make a real difference to NHS Highland, giving staff every chance to develop and expand their skills and thereby give patients the best service possible."

The learning agreement between NHS Highland and trade unions UNISON, Unite and the RCN means union reps will get time, training and support to offer help and advice to staff about training and learning opportunities - especially for those who have not traditionally accessed it.

Nigel Small, Management Co-Chair of NHS Highland's Learning and Development Group, who will sign the agreement, comments "This initiative demonstrates NHS Highland's commitment to both the development of its staff and the strong commitment we have to working with Trade Union colleagues so that the organisation delivers training and education with a joined up, partnership approach. This is an exciting initiative which will be good for staff and good for patient care''

Further signatory Adam Palmer, the union co-chair of the Learning and Development Committee and UNISON branch secretary says "The trade unions in NHS Highland are excited about this Learning Agreement, the first in Scotland's NHS.

"We are enthusiastic about making sure that all staff have access to learning and training because we know this can literally change lives. Working in partnership we will be doing everything we can to make these words on paper a reality for all NHS staff particularly those who do essential jobs such as our porters, cleaners, our laundry workers and cooks. Those who do not always have equal access to training and development."

The event will form part of a day-long programme (from 10.00am - 3.00pm) of workshops and stalls where NHS Highland's Union Learning Reps will be discussing the way forward to promote learning in the workplace.

One of the learning reps - Janette McQuiston will say "Since I first became involved in learning, which I did through UNISON, I have developed both my skills and my confidence. This agreement can benefit many more staff like me which will also benefit everyone who uses and cares about our National Health Service."

You are invited to attend the signing and send photographers/camera crew. Please contact Philippa Clark (Trade Unions) or Gill Keel (NHS Highland) (below) to arrange attendance. If you wish to arrange an interview with Minster for Schools and Skills Maureen Watt please contact Brendan Rooney in the Scottish Government Press office on 0131 244 2960.


For Further Information Please Contact: Philippa Clark (UNISON Lifelong learning) 01463 715 891(w) or 07983 636553 (m) Gill Keel (NHS Highland) 01463 704775(w) Eunice Cameron (NHS Highland) 01463 704774(w) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0870 7777 006(w) 0771 558 3729(m) Judy Fulton (RCN Communications Officer) 0131 662 6138 (w) 07962 801 005