Last Updated on February 3, 2021

This month we have the pleasure to welcome Tony Guilfoyle of Blue Diamond training who offers training to the social care sector. Welcome ad to Trainers corner for what is another fascinating insight into the life of a business trainer. Don’t forget, if you also want to be interviewed you can contact us here.

Tony Guilfoyle trainer in social care

1. Tell us a little bit about your background please Tony

For me, it all started 20 years ago when I started my career in pharmacy.

I joined a well-known national pharmacy chain working as a retail sales manager on the shop side, but after just a few months I got interested in the dispensing side and promptly moved into a pharmacy manager position.

There, I learned how to carry out in-store blood pressure and blood sugar testing on the public, and then, in a district manager role, where I was P&L responsible for 6 pharmacies and I learnt how the world of medicines really works.

First Qualifications in Medicine

Having completed my dispensing NVQ qualifications I was thirsty to learn more and about 3 years later an opportunity arose, to join the Learning and Development (L&D) department at corporate headquarters.

My first role, which I received internal training for, was as an IT Trainer.

This involved training staff all over the UK on how to use the newly installed POS (Point of Sale or Tills to you and me) and the back-office systems.

This also involved ‘trouble-shooting’ assignments too. This gave me my first taste of training rather than coaching. And I found that I loved it!

Then, about 2 years later, I was offered the chance to get involved with a new project for the company. A brand new bespoke system was created for the pharmacists and dispensers throughout the country, a PMR (Patient Medication Records) system that was windows based, replacing the old DOS (Disc Operating System).

It was a huge roll-out!

I was selected as a Regional Training Officer and my region was the North of England.

This is when the company spent a lot of time and money on me to give me a much broader set of training skills including Train the Trainer skills.

My job was to set up training venues around my patch and then take selected staff from various areas through an intensive 3-week programme to become ‘local experts’ in the new system.

This involved 2 weeks of classroom work on the new system and how to teach others. Then we shadowed them on a weeks’ worth of ‘Go Live’ events, where they instilled the key points to other staff in their area so that they could support individual stores on their planned ‘Go Live’ day in their pharmacy.

I then trained up ‘Pioneer’ pharmacy teams who could be like local helpdesks. I then had to oversee the complete Go Live programme as it unfolded through my region. This role really gave me job satisfaction, after which I knew what I wanted to do during the rest of my working life.

All the above happened while I was married and raising two children, and so, learning how to manage my work/life balance was also another skill I learned.

After that project was complete, I took a role in the managed care department, which involved recruiting new care home business for the company.

This introduced me to the world of social care. Here I learned about MDS (Monitored Dose Systems), making people’s lives easier when having to take multiple doses of medicines every day.

I proved to be highly successful at this to my surprise and this led to me being head-hunted for a similar role for a brand-new closed pharmacy business in the North of England where I lived.

However, as this new business developed and grew, it wanted to not just dispense medicines, but to also train care staff in the Safe Handling of Medicines, and I was offered the role of National Training Manager.

Wow…now I really learned a lot.

Moving into Training and Education

I tool my NVQ Level 3 in medical science and my BTEC Certificate in Education & Training of Adults.

Then I started devising lesson plans, got them accredited by City & Guilds, achieved City & Guilds Training Centre status, and then started selling the training programmes to the care homes we dispensed for.

The training was delivered face to face (mainly by me at first) and finally, marketed them to the entire UK sector, where I won several council contracts.

I later developed and delivered new training programmes for Epilepsy Awareness & Buccal Administration, Managing Anaphylaxis in addition to the Safe Handling of Medicines for different care settings.

With a busy CPD programme to follow, I now realised something about myself…. I loved learning! As well as helping others learn.

How did you get involved with Freelance Training?

After 15 years in the pharmacy sector, my children now grown and flying the nest, my priorities in life changed. I decided I wanted to be FREE.

Free to decide what to design and develop, to decide which customers to work with, to decide when and how I wanted to work.

So, I set up my own business as a freelance training provider called Blue Diamond Training Ltd.

It’s called Blue Diamond because blue diamonds are rare and valuable and my passion for learning is valuable to customers and my skills as a trainer are rare in this world of online technology, haha, anyway, that’s what I would like to think!

So, in 2106 I started out on my own and have loved every minute.

I was lucky enough to bring many of my customers with me from my previous working life, as excellent relationships were built, and many appreciated my ‘realistic and passionate’ style of teaching.

Also, they knew that I was serious about wanting to help them and their staff develop in their appreciation of not just what was important but why it was important to them in their roles within the care sector.

As well as having several training packages that can be offered face to face and via remote learning, I also used my medicines qualifications to launch a new service to pharmacies around the UK who dispense for Care Homes.

So was born a comprehensive Medication Audit Service for Care Homes.

This allowed me to visit care homes and conduct thorough in sections of the way medicines are managed and then provide a 6-7 page report that highlighted where improvements can be made together with comprehensive recommendations on how to achieve better CQC ratings.

My freelance training life was now up and running.

What subjects do you provide training on?

1. Safe Handling of Medicines for Care Workers Training

This course has been accredited by the NCFE as level 3.

The package covers the key points from the Skills for Care knowledge set of

  • the law and medicines
  • the roles & responsibilities of healthcare professionals operating in the care sector
  • learning about different medicine families and how to administer different forms of medicines
  • best practice guidance in administering medicines.

The course is formatted for residential, domiciliary and supported living workers as well as a special package designed for Registered Nurses.

2. Epilepsy Awareness & Buccal Administration Training

This course was designed to assist care workers who look after people with epilepsy so that they understand what seizures look like and how to administer rescue medicines through the buccal cavity to prevent status epilepticus which would result in hospitalisation.

3. Anaphylaxis & Adrenaline Auto-Injectors Training

This course is designed for care workers who are caring for people who have severe allergies and looks at how to recognise allergic reactions, what causes them and how to use the different kinds of adrenaline auto-injector pens that are prescribed.

4. Managing Diabetes & Its Treatment Training

This course examines the causes and treatments for diabetics as well as looking closely at how the condition can be successfully managed to prevent hypo/hyperglycaemia and treat these dangerous reactions.

5. Understanding and Implementing the Mental Capacity Act Training

This course allows carers to see how this legislation plays out in the lives of the people they care for and how to implement the criteria for deciding on capacity and understanding the legal terminology and procedures.

All the above courses have been developed as face-to-face training programmes but also redesigned for the Remote Learning platform.

What are the biggest challenges as a trainer?

For me, the biggest challenge is adapting to the new learning mediums of today. The introduction of online video packages like Zoom and MS Teams has been a godsend for this difficult COVID pandemic infested times.

They are after all the next best thing to live classroom interaction.

However, the drive to purely online E-Learning products that just require hours of reading what’s on the screen and then ticking boxes could be potentially short-changing the learner in my humble opinion.

There must be a blended approach to learning and the more we understand the principles of accelerated learning in its true guise, as a way of using multiple stimuli to the brain and its sensors, the better the outcomes will be.

What is your favourite part of being a trainer?

People. People are my favourite part of being a trainer.

Just seeing the penny drop in someone’s face when they realise how important the point is they have just learnt and how it will change the way they do things at work, that is everything to me and I strive to accomplish it as often as I possibly can.

Also, I just love learning myself. Being able to explore deeply the subjects I enjoy most is for me all the ‘food’ I need to live on.

You are never too young, too old or too academically lacking when it comes to learning new things.

How do you identify the training needs of the employees or people you train?

First, understand the business needs of the company the staff belong to.

Then ensure you clearly understand what the performance expectations are for their role.

Then, and only then, can you see where areas of weakness exist.

Design a programme that addresses those areas of weakness and the after delivering, get lots and lots of feedback through interviews and surveys and analyse the hell out of it.

Then tweak the programme and measure the results against both the business needs and the staff performance.

As far as identifying individual needs, it’s all about watching and listening carefully interspersed with well thought out questions to establish what potential obstacles may be lurking under the surface about achieving success in their subject.

Your one tip on how to be a good trainer?

Be a good listener and learn to love your subjects!

What do you like to do outside of work in your spare time

I am learning how to spend time relaxing with my partner in life and we now have a little villa in Spain where we will eventually retire to and enjoy the slower pace of life.

Our little dog, Bonnie is also a big part of our lives.

Further Information

You can find Tony’s training site online:

Classroom lesson plans

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Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds

Valeria has been involved with education for over 16 years. She has taught in the UK at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (where she got her PhD), in addition to working as a researcher at Exeter University. Valeria additionally has several years of experience of also working with Ofsted and Cardiff University in management roles & is she is the founder of Symonds Training.