The Royal West Sussex NHS Trust has created a workforce development programme that has led to improved patient care and helped meet skill shortages in radiology.
Radiographers are in short supply nationally with vacancy rates averaging around 8 per cent. In the south, however, vacancy rates of up to 25 per cent are not unusual.
Radiologists, the medical consultant staff who lead complex examinations, are also in short supply.
The trust established a skills ladder to develop support staff. This has enabled radiographer department assistants to train as assistant practitioners at the University of Portsmouth.
Once qualified, they enable the trust's radiographers to concentrate on more complex examinations and on the more seriously ill patients.
Katherine Scannell, acting deputy director of HR, said the trust wanted to break down traditional boundaries, allow people to upskill, and reward people for skills they had.
"At the early stages we took quite a chance," she said. "But assistant and advanced practitioners are now coming through [the training] and are in place to make this work.
"Patients are being seen by the person with the most appropriate skills for their case," she added.
Nick Ashford, clinical director, said the changes were designed because of need, but the strategy has worked.
"HR have been visionary," he said. "[You need to] take a few risks, to break out of tradition. You may fail, but you have to do it to go forward."
Last week the trust won the overall award at the Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management's Excellence in Strategic HRM Awards 2003.