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Totara Learn transforms systems, processes and roles in record time at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust provide the widest range of NHS mental health services in the UK. The 4,600 staff serve a local population of 1.3 million people who provide more than 230 services.

The Challenges

The Education and Development (E&D) team at SLaM were using multiple systems in addition to their HR system (ESR) to manage their learning and development portfolio:

  • Sharepoint – for face-to-face course bookings, study leave requests and appraisals.
  • Moodle – two platforms to deliver in-house and 3rd party e-learning.
  • WIRED – for reporting.
  • OLM – for recording training compliance.

The E&D team recognised they needed to replace fragmented systems with one central system to increase operational efficiency and engage the workforce to take control of their learning.


SLaM wanted a system that would grow with their needs and allow for a rapid implementation to align with a wider Workforce Systems transformation project. Totara Learn was identified as the preferred solution with the greatest potential for sustainability. Think Associates were selected as the implementation partner based on their knowledge of healthcare and the flexibility offered by having an in-house technical team.

The Solution

Design and Theming

Bespoke theming and template design within Totara Learn aligned the system with branding created for the E&D team. LEAP – ‘Learn, Engage, Aspire, and Perform’ is now recognised across the workforce as the central point of access for Learning, Development and Performance Appraisal.

Learning Activity Set Up

Totara Learn provides a one stop shop for managing all learning and development activities across the organisation. In the past, only courses administered by E&D were accessible through E&D systems, however the “editing trainer” role allows other internal teams to promote and manage their courses through the system. Use of a master template for learning activities aided the rapid implementation approach, provides consistency of experience and supports learner engagement.

Self Service

For ease of access, Totara Learn was configured as a ‘single-sign on’ system. Learners are able to login, book face to face training, apply for study leave, access e-learning and manage their training compliance via a shortcut embedded on every PC desktop.

Delegated Access – Custom Development

Think customised the Totara Learn codebase to allow managers to delegate responsibility for booking people within their team onto face to face training sessions. This allows the system to mirror ‘real-world’ processes, where often a manager’s assistant is responsible for booking training.

Management Hierarchies

One of the difficulties many organisations face is keeping on top of manager/staff hierarchies. Within Totara Learn, Think have created a function for learners to be able to choose their own manager. This triggers a workflow that notifies the old manager, the new manager and the learning administrator who can verify this selection. This functionality provides up to date information that can be used to improve the data quality in their HR system.


Certifications were set up so that staff are automatically reminded when activities need to be repeated to remain compliant. Emails are generated to learners and their managers and there is a simple process for them to book on the appropriate refresher courses, launch compliant e-learning activities or complete e-assessments to renew their certification. This information is highlighted on bespoke learning dashboards.


Totara Learn is being used to manage the organisation’s appraisal process. Staff and managers can prepare for their appraisal, record and monitor objectives, develop and manage their learning and development plans. The appraisal process also allows managers to measure their team’s performance against the organisation’s core values and behaviours. After learners and managers have completed the appraisal process, HR Business Partners calibrate performance ratings as required.


Totara Learn has replaced the WIRED system for reporting. Real-time, accurate reports of compliance are accessible by administrators and managers across the organisation.

The Results: Totara Learn has transformed processes, roles & systems

A strong partnership approach contributed to a very successful rapid implementation. SLaM went live with Totara Learn within 3 months of procurement.  Staff are now actively using the system to manage all of their learning and development requirements and their feedback is very positive.

Increased Learner Engagement

There has been an increase in the uptake of non-mandatory, personal and professional development e-learning (eg IT Skills Pathway courses) as a result of the increased visibility and accessibility of activities available across the organisation. The E&D team are also able to easily track training completion and compliance.

Effective Compliance Management  

The scalability of the Essential Training framework combined with the rich role and infrastructure information drawn from ESR allows the E&D team to work with departments to map and then track specialist training requirements for extended, role-specific training and competency compliance.

Centralised Appraisal Informs Planning

Centralising the appraisal record has allowed the E&D team to use PDP reports to inform planning for future education and development activities. Nurses and midwives are also able to manage NMC revalidation processes through the integrated bespoke portfolio.

Increased Operational Efficiency

The E&D team are now working very differently and no longer spend large amounts of time doing data input. The single sign on process means the steady traffic of password enquiries are now non-existent.

“Implementing Totara Learn has helped us to develop a streamlined, single-sign-on training environment for the Trust, overcoming some of the problems our staff previously had with multiple eLearning accounts and finding their way round a number of different systems.

LEAP has allowed us to extend one-stop access to the wealth of learning that is on offer internally as well as through external providers and we are beginning to see a change in the learning culture in the organisation.

Our initial roll-out has also given us the foundation to improve the Trust’s management of role-specific training, appraisal and supervision, personal development planning, study leave and funding applications and competency assessments.

Think’s understanding of the healthcare environment and especially the requirements of the NHS has been invaluable in creating a tailored platform which serves our growing needs.” – Lucy Reid, Head of Learning and Knowledge Systems, Education and Development Department, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

The Next Steps

The E&D team are looking at ways that Totara Learn can manage more of their internal processes more efficiently.

Think Associates developed an additional hierarchy that can be updated in line with staff rotations along with specific privacy configurations to allow Totara Learn to help manage Clinical Supervision. This is already being used in other healthcare organisations and SLaM are keen to implement this functionality shortly.

Think Associates are also working on additional developments to Totara Learn for SLaM including the following:

  • Advanced study leave processes – with multiple level approval processes for time and funding.
  • Revenue generation – implementing a pay gateway with Totara Learn and allowing external access to their learning portfolio will allow SLaM to generate revenue from the system.
  • Utilising Totara Learn to manage Medical Device and nursing competencies.
  • Integrating Totara Learn with the Allocate Rostering system.
  • Enhancing appraisal processes to include the 9 box grid framework for succession planning, coaching and talent management.
  • Implementing learning plans to support programmes such as apprenticeships.

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