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Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure GB-2020-12/1789 – measures in United Kingdom

Digital Learning and Development at NHS Blood and Transplant service

Country United Kingdom , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 20 March 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Company practices
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Changes in work organisation
Author Claire Evans (Warwick University) and Eurofound
Measure added 11 March 2021 (updated 11 May 2021)

Background information

in 2018, NHSBT's maturity in digital L&D was low. The 'digital team' was two people who were previously classroom trainers who had dabbled with tech to do some videos and some limited e-learning. The appointment of a new L&D Director meant a shift to digital learning. By 2020, the digital L & D team is now six-strong, comprised of learning technologists, people with teaching backgrounds and with instructional design backgrounds, with people from the business who have worked in the scientific and blood donation areas of the organisation.

This shift proved crucial during the pandemic, given that NHSBT’s services – and the skill levels of its 5,500 staff – were crucial to maintain during the pandemic. While many predominantly office staff have been able to conduct their roles from home, most of those working across the organisation’s blood, transplant, diagnostic and therapeutic services and its clinical research side have remained very much on the frontline.

Moreover, the numbers of staff working directly with the public have in fact increased, with the body heading the NHS’s convalescent plasma trial – a drive to get those who’ve recovered from coronavirus to donate blood plasma to test whether these antibodies can help people struggling to develop their own immune response (with significant stocks built up and ready for immediate use, pending trial results).

Content of measure

The organisation had to recruit more than 600 donor carers and nurses during phase one. These new staff joined from a range of sectors and scenarios, including people on furlough, pilots and crew, retail nurses and retired NHSBT staff returning to help. It would usually be a six-week onboarding and induction programme, but it had to be done in three weeks. Thus, the digital L&D team dropped everything to support the education teams to put a digital learning path and content together that could be made available to people before they even got access to IT.

The digital L&D team’s main responsibility is building learning solutions and providing guidance to, and connecting, education leads across the organisation, who in turn are responsible for teams of facilitators and trainers in their particular areas. It has to be this way, given NHSBT’s diversity, and the need for specialists to deliver specialist training. There are not just people in very different roles but also working in different environments with different access to technology.

In 2019, mandatory training had been refreshed and NHSBT’s management and leadership programmes - previously traditional classroom courses that could take up to six months to book on to - were digitised. This meant that when all face-to-face courses had to be stopped under the pandemic, people in the organisation can now access tools and technology they can work with every day, by getting curated content fed to their inboxes.

Prior to the pandemic, the team had digitised 42 L&D products overall, including a project introducing virtual reality to teach a blood identification module. So NHSBT was in an excellent position to deliver learning virtually when COVID struck. While some training is still taking place face to face, in the form of frontline colleagues coaching each other, much is moving online. As such, the team has already worked on 55 products this year, with its agile methodology coming to the fore.

It’s a way of working the organisation is keen to hang on to. There is a shift in approach: whereas previously, all products would be piloted fully, this can't be done for everything during COVID. There was a need to get learning products live and then iterate and improve continuously.

Use of measure

The organisation has around 5,500 employees. It is not known how many have utilised the new digital L&D products.


  • Training and employability

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Particular professions
Companies providing essential services
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Company / Companies
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role No involvement No involvement
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Company level


No involvement; organisational L&D practice.

Views and reactions

No views expressed.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      Q - Human Health And Social Work Activities Q86 Human health activities
    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Health professionals



Eurofound (2021), Digital Learning and Development at NHS Blood and Transplant service, measure GB-2020-12/1789 (measures in United Kingdom), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.