Six criteria of success were identified which form the basis against which the effectiveness of the secondments were evaluated. These criteria were:
- Enabling the objectives of the CLAHRC SY project to be met; the degree to which individuals with requisite skills were recruited to the secondments and provided with the means to contribute their knowledge and expertise to the project and the wider CLAHRC programme
- Team working/membership; the extent to which the secondees were integrated into the project team and the wider CLAHRC programme
- Effective management of workload; the extent to which secondees were enabled to undertake their dual roles and meet the demands of both workloads
- Personal knowledge and skills development; the extent to which secondees were able to develop their research skills, their clinical knowledge and expertise and other transferable generic skills
- Enhanced clinical practice; the extent to which the secondments had impacted on care delivery and the development of working practices
- Enhanced education practice; the extent to which the secondments had impacted on teaching, curriculum development and contributed to scholarly outputs.
Achieving CLAHRC SY objectives
Overall the secondments were successful. Individually and collectively, the secondees contributed a wide range of knowledge and skills to the CLAHRC projects. In relation to the clinical secondments, a secondment approach that enabled staff to continue working in clinical practice and involved different staff grades was of particular value to the project because it ensured clinical credibility and maximised effective engagement with clinical staff across grades and disciplines. The academic secondments enhanced the research capacity of the project teams and enabled valuable components of the projects to be completed.
In the majority of cases secondees received an appropriate level of support which ensured successful and satisfactory completion of the secondment and facilitated effective engagement with the wider CLAHRC team. Key to effective support and integration of secondees was willingness on the part of the project team to understand the pressures and constraints that secondees operated within and to be flexible in accommodating the needs of the secondee.
Where more than one secondee had worked on a project, this was beneficial to the project because of the opportunities it offered for collaborative working and mutual support. Some clinical secondees initially experienced some role uncertainty which delayed collaborative working but these issues resolved over time. The academic secondees into one project identified on-going lack of support which had an adverse effect on progress but did not ultimately impact on satisfactory completion of the secondment project.
Where backfill arrangements were in place, clinical secondees were able to manage their workload effectively. However, the effective management of two workloads represented a substantial challenge for several secondees. These were most pronounced for the academic secondees, particularly if secondees had not achieved reduction of workload commensurate with the time allocation of the secondment.
All the secondees developed their knowledge and skills as a result of the secondment. Three areas of learning were identified; firstly research knowledge and expertise, secondly clinical knowledge and thirdly generic skills. Additionally, it was evident that several of the clinical secondees had achieved substantial personal development.
Impact on clinical practice
The evidence suggests that the secondments have started to impact positively on clinical practice. The clinical secondments began to have a positive impact from the early stages of the project. The secondees were ideally situated to influence practice in their working areas and their increased sense of empowerment increased their capability to bring about change. The indications are that with management support, the secondees will continue to have an effect.
Impact of education
There is indication of a limited amount of academic impact at the time the evaluation was undertaken. The secondees' enhanced clinical and academic credibility had impacted positively on their individual teaching and learning from the projects has been incorporated into teaching content. To date, the scale and scope of impact had been confined to the sphere of influence of individual secondees. Some scholarly output was underway. It was recognised that Departmental structures and processes would be required to maximise academic impact, both in terms of impact on teaching and scholarly output.