Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology


Healthcare Science Modernisation Conference

Healthcare Science Modernisation Conference - a report from AAPT Chair Ishbel Gall

On the 28th June NHS Education Scotland (NES) and the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) held a Scottish Event at the Beardmore Hotel and Conference Centre, Glasgow.

This event was held to update the work of AHCS and how much of an effect it will have on working practices in Scotland. Personally I feel it will have a bigger influence on the smaller professions such as ours as there are now less than 65 APTs in Scotland, a number of whom are employed outwith the NHS.

This 11th National Healthcare Science Event since 2008 was opened by Robert Farley and it is the 5th such event which has had Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) as a major topic. Scotland has not embraced the MSC programme in the same way as other parts of the UK. There are around 6000 people employed within Healthcare Science in Scotland and they represent the fourth largest clinical group. (APTs make up approximately 1%) Scotland recognised challenges such as lack of training and registration within a fragmented workforce 15 years ago and set about to resolve some of the issues. Some have been resolved some not but there is no desire for a wholesale switch to Practitioner and Scientist Training Programmes when there are already fit for purpose programmes in place.

Much of this is down to cost and practicality so there appears to be an argument for equivalence in Scotland and AHCS expects to lead on this.

The first presentation was by Janet Monkman, CEO of AHCS, and was an overview of what the AHCS has achieved and what its ambitions are. The aspirations to lead and inspire within HCS and ensure high standards and service improvement are commendable but whether they will achieve all their ambitions in the next twelve months depends, I think, on engagement with some of the largest professional bodies.  Developing alternative funding streams in addition to that received from MSC HEE and supplementing the current support with income from a combination of sources forms part of the three year plan but as yet there is no indication how this will be achieved. The AHCS is a virtual organisation which has outsourced its back office functions so many people are unsure as to how this will actually work.

The next twelve months will see the Academy try to build on its achievements to date and the main goals are to progress registration, develop their role in equivalence and validate and accredit training and education.

The second presentation was by Kerry Tinkler the interim Director of Professional Services.  The development of Equivalence by the Academy has started with the Scientist Training Programme (STP) but we are assured the Practitioner Training Programme (PTP)is not far behind.

The Academy will award the certificate of Attainment for those who successfully complete a Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) programme and the certificate of Equivalence for those who successfully complete the assessment process against outcomes of an MSC Programme. This is all still under development but I sensed many people in the room were Biomedical Scientists so much more interested in the PTP!

“For equivalence applicants must provide evidence against Good Scientific Practice domains. Assessors will review the evidence against the relevant MSC specialist programme outcomes”
The assessment of an individual will either lead to Full Equivalence, Partial Equivalence or No Equivalence. Where there are gaps in knowledge or training this will have to be addressed to give specific outcomes. Where there is no equivalence then full training will be required.
All this is still under development and will need the support of all Healthcare Scientists and the public will need to trust the process too. The assessment will most likely be in the form of portfolio evidence and the assessment panel will include a mixture of lay and professional people with at least one person being “an expert in the field.”

The third and final representative was Virginia Wykes the Director of Education & Regulation at the Academy. Virginia was a pharmacist who was involved with training and education at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society especially involved in pre-registration training. She has worked with many professions developing education and training programmes but not in Healthcare Science. By her own admission she has no axe to grind but didn’t realise how complicated Healthcare Science was!
As well as seeking HCPC approval of new STP themes and specialisms and granting Equivalence Certificates to non-STP Clinical Scientists to enable HCPC registration the Academy are developing registration for HCS Practitioners.

They are setting up register accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) for those not registered by statute i.e. not Biomedical Scientists or Hearing Aid Dispensers etc.
They are doing this “TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC!”

We then went over a lot of the pros of an accredited register and why the PSA, formerly CHRE, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, were providing a third way of registration. As someone who thinks registration is important you don’t have to sell the idea of registration to me but until the Academy have spoken to the current Healthcare Science Voluntary Register Groups I cannot quite envisage how this will work with the costs which the PSA have published. I shall be very interested in how this progresses as the Academy is going to promote accredited registers to the employers and also try to educate service users (the public).

The final speaker was Dr Chris Gibson from the National School of Healthcare Science, who was trained in Aberdeen. Dr Gibson is the Professional Lead for Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering and Deputy Head of the National School of Healthcare Science and was giving an overview of it’s role in the MSC programme.

The School was developed in October 2011 and governance is provided by the West Midlands LETB. The school role is to support training, maintain standards and improve outcomes. It is made up of themed boards led by Head of School and professional leads and there are Assessment and Education leads. The website makes use of an OLAT , Online Learning and Assessment Tool  which helps with the blended learning method of training.

The emphasis on a mixture of knowledge, understanding, skills and performance and their use in the clinical setting fits with the MSC programme. Skills are assessed by Directly Observed Practical (DOPs), understanding by Case Based Discussion (CBDs) and performance by Observed Clinical Events (OCE).

Using the OLAT which should be accessible on any portal, even the NHS students can create an e-portfolio and communicate with tutors. This system enables benchmarking and oversight of training. Gap analysis can also be used to define a personalized programme if required. There may be areas which can be cherry picked for use by others in the MSC programme.

There was a short question and answer time where most of the questions were about equivalence and the difference between a Scottish Biomedical Science Degree and the MSC approved PTP.
Lunch over ran somewhat, staff shortage not due to the delegates, and the Workshop was not allocated extra time. I was in the Life Science Speciality Group and this was in the main Biomedical Scientists who are less than happy about what they see as dismissal of their qualifications by MSC and therefore AHCS.

At the feedback session it became clear that many delegates were not happy, feeling that the AHCS had so far been unsympathetic towards Scotland and was not communicating well. Many were annoyed that the PTP was behind the STP as this is what affects them. A slight air of tension seemed to be developing between Clinical Scientists and Biomedical Scientists who felt they were being treated less well than their colleagues.

The agreed outcomes from the discussion were
1. Conversation to take place between NES and AHCS
2. MSC team issues affecting Scotland to be raised
3. A link with Scotland to improve communication as the cross border relationship is very important.

David Stirling, Healthcare Science Officer at the Scottish Government closed the meeting with a presentation entitled “Healthcare Science beyond Training and Education.”  His take on MSC, “if you are not confused you don’t understand it” seemed to go down well with many in the room! He talked about exploring routes to upper levels for BMS staff and of how there should be a focus on delivery of practical issues. He talked about the need to maximise talent and shine our light which is something which Healthcare Science has not done particularly well. We look forward to an update on progress at the National Event in November which will be held in Glasgow this year to accommodate all those interested in attending.

I look forward to the next HCS Event in November to see what progress has actually been made and to see how the NES/AHCS relationship is developing.

Anyone interested in seeing the slides from the presentations given by the Academy can find them here

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