When the Department of Health revealed its Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) Programme it was assumed that APTs would train under the generic Healthcare Science Practitioner (HCSP) programme for a BSc in Life Sciences.
Life Science includes blood sciences, infection sciences, tissue and cellular diagnostics and genetics. Learning is delivered through approved and accredited BSc (Hons) degrees that integrate academic learning and workplace-based training.
These degrees include 50 weeks of workplace-based training over three years with a broad scientific training in the first two years, followed by specialisation in year 3. Having staff rotate through various roles initially means that they can be deployed where there is a workforce demand.
A Unique Workforce
It was pointed out by AAPT that APTs were quite unique in what they did and as most of training is carried out in the workplace then the MSC generic training would not fit well and provide the best qualified and trained APTs. There then followed a lengthy workforce review which looked at the role of APTs, the variety of tasks performed and at current qualifications.
AAPT had previously been working with RCPath and RSPH to try and bring the Certificate and Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology up to date, getting as far as an outline BSc programme which had RCPath approval.
The MSC team insisted that any future qualifications must fit with the MSC model and tick all the boxes before it would be approved and recognised, so unfortunately it was back to the drawing board. The criterion is for three levels of APT qualifications, Assistant, Associate and Practitioner level. Current qualifications do not fit with any of these so the whole examination system has to be overhauled with fit for purpose qualifications.
Diploma will run for two more years……and then BSc in Anatomical Pathology Technology
As the RSPH is not a Higher Education Institute (HEI) then we had to engage with an HEI to enable the project to proceed. Chester University seemed an ideal choice as they are already providing some of the required modules as part of their Mortuary Science Programme.
The new BSc in Anatomical Pathology Technology will be recognised by MSC and will become the qualification required for registration when it is fully implemented. Currently it is the Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology which is the recognised qualification and that is why it is running for two more years to allow those with the certificate to complete current training and join the Voluntary Register.
The MSC programme is being implemented across the UK with varying degrees of support, England has embraced the programme and Wales is following suit, north of the border there is a slightly less enthusiastic approach but the Health Directorate has agreed to participate in the UK-wide framework whilst retaining the best of current Scottish practice. As there are so few APTs in Scotland this will indeed be the recognised national approved APT qualifications.
So what is happening now? Are the old qualifications being phased out?
The old RSPH qualifications are being phased out; the CAPT has been withdrawn as of this year.
This has caused some confusion as many people seem not to have understood how imminent the changes were. There has unfortunately been a delay in getting the new qualification up and running mainly due to having to fit exactly with the MSC Programme whilst also being fit for purpose.
Development of a portfolio to evidence competence
At the moment a portfolio is being developed in which trainees can record their practical experiences which will be used as evidence of their competencies. Portfolios will provide evidence of all the practical skills that are necessary to become an Assistant Anatomical Pathology Technologist.
The biggest change is that there will be “modules” to complete rather than one examination at the end of the training period - with different ways of assessing competencies for each of the different modules, such as written examinations, written assignments and practical assessments – I hope you would agree we needed a much greater emphasis in assessing competency of practical skills which this will bring.
Completion of this first qualification will lead to the awarding of a Level 3 Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology. This is where it gets confusing as the next award is a Level 4 Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology giving rise to the title Associate Anatomical Pathology Technologist.
This qualification which is under development, but has MSC approval will be a joint award between the RSPH and Chester University. The final award is the BSc which will be awarded by Chester University and lead to the title Practitioner Anatomical Pathology Technologist. For a limited time it may be possible to be accepted onto the BSc course without completing the Level 3 and Level 4 Diplomas, depending on other qualifications and experience, but this will become a run through course where awards will be dependent on completing the previous level.
You can stop at any level if you so wish but we would envisage that most people will complete both the Level 3 and 4 Diploma as this will give a wider scope of practice.
At this moment in time the modules have been approved by Ofqual and the MSC team, RSPH and AAPT are working on the delivery of the courses. This is a mammoth task which needs a lot more work from centres than previously so has understandably taken longer than expected. The new qualifications will be enrolling trainees later this year and I would ask that everyone looks out for the information which will be sent to them.
A mail shot will be sent to every mortuary in England and Wales that has an HTA licence and also to the mortuaries in Scotland to ensure that everyone is aware of changes. There will also be articles in the Bulletin and Biomedical Scientist so that pathologists and laboratory managers are aware of changes.
The next meeting of the MSC and course providers should allow an accurate picture of timescales and delivery and we will keep members informed.
I’ve just passed my Certificate, what do I do?
If you already hold the CAPT then you have two more years to sit the old style Diploma before it too is withdrawn. This will allow you to complete current qualifications and apply to become registered with VRC. Once the run through MSC approved programme is in place then the new BSc will become the registrable qualification. Some current APTs may want to complete the BSc and Chester University will look at each applicant on their own merits for admission to the course.
For trainees who were to sit their CAPT next year, I know this might seem bad timing but the new qualifications are real educational currency and will be recognised as part of the Healthcare Science Practitioner Programme and the only way to achieve the award is if you are employed as an APT. For those of you who will want to enrol on the course later this year it will be useful to keep a diary/ log of the practical experiences you have in your everyday work as some of this may be used towards your evidence portfolio.
Can I get involved?
Yes. We need experienced competent APTs
There is a large practical element to the new qualifications which will need to be assessed by competent persons, who obviously will be qualified and experienced APTs! If you would like to help with assessing please email your interest to email@example.com
There will be some training to ensure everyone is assessing to the same criteria and standards as a number of assessments will be externally verified.
Questions not covered by this update?
The AAPT Council wish to help members and non-members and if anything does not seem clear, please email firstname.lastname@example.org