Who are Healthcare Scientists?
- What is a healthcare scientist?
There are over 50,000 healthcare scientists working in the NHS and public health services. Together they provide the scientific backbone of the NHS and their work underpins 80% of all diagnoses. Their role stretches across the whole innovation pathway from academic and translational research, to patient-centred service transformation.
- Profession – By successfully completing an accredited healthcare science degree, the graduate will have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and behaviours in applied scientific techniques within a discipline or related disciplines, to work in a range of healthcare settings as a Healthcare Science Practitioner (or Biomedical Scientist).
They have a clearly defined clinical role in the delivery of clinical investigations and interventions for patients and technical reporting of quality assured tests on patients, patient samples and medical equipment. In some specialisms Healthcare Scientists provide therapeutic interventions, some of which may be specialist.
The healthcare science profession is uniquely placed to harness the UK’s world class healthcare research base, improve patient outcomes and assist NHS England in its goal to accelerate innovation. Healthcare scientists work in more than 50 specialisms:
- Undergraduate degree courses and apprenticeships:
There is a Practitioner Training Programme undergraduate degree (accessed here) and apprenticeships lead to an approved and accredited degree in one of five themes of healthcare science:
Ø cardiovascular, respiratory and sleep sciences
Ø neurosensory sciences (audiology, neurophysiology)
Ø life sciences also known as pathology sciences (blood sciences, infection sciences, cellular sciences, genetics science)
Ø medical physics (radiotherapy physics ,radiation physics ,nuclear medicine)
Ø clinical engineering (medical engineering, radiation engineering, renal technology, rehabilitation engineering)
Universities providing undergraduate healthcare science degrees:
- PTP degree programmes lead to registration with the relevant professional body:
Graduates from the PTP will be a qualified Healthcare Scientist and eligible to apply for professional registration:
Physiological and physical science graduates will be eligible to apply for Registration with the Academy for Healthcare Science, the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists, or, Register for Clinical Technologists.
Life science graduates will be eligible to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council as Biomedical Scientist (Healthcare Science) and/or AHCS registration.
- Scientist Training programme
The Scientist Training Programme (STP) is a three-year programme of work-based learning, supported by a University accredited master's degree, details can be accessed here. The STP is for well-qualified science graduates with a passion for science and patient care, and with the motivation, behaviours and values needed for the NHS of the future. The trainee is employed in a scientific department, normally in the NHS (or in some cases by an NHS private partner or a private healthcare provider), for a three-year training period. During this time, they complete
Ø a part-time master’s degree (fully funded)
Ø a programme of workplace training, using an e-portfolio
Ø a final assessment of competence
The training post is salaried at NHS Agenda for Change Band 6. On graduation the STP is eligible for statutory Clinical Scientist registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and would be able to apply for Clinical Scientist roles in the Health Service.
- Workforce development – the NHS Long Term Plan and People Plan identify the need to recruit and develop the healthcare science workforce as well as implementing new programmes to ensure a robust and adaptable workforce able to utilise new and emerging technologies in healthcare.
- A major risk to the future healthcare science workforce – is awareness of healthcare science roles in Trusts and the need to increase clinical placement capacity for undergraduate healthcare science students that is an essential requirement of the PTP degrees.
- Practitioner Training Programme Improvement Survey
Health Education England commissioned a Practitioner Training Programme Improvement Survey of all stakeholders including employers between October 4th , 2019 and November 8th 2019. That can be access here:
- The healthcare science workforce response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Healthcare scientists at all levels form student to senior healthcare scientists have been essential in the response to Coronavirus and will continue to provide essential clinical services in the recovery and rehabilitation phases.
PTP healthcare science students volunteered to support local healthcare services or, returned to the workplace as part of the Health Education COVID Deployment.
- Healthcare Science assistants and associates
Essential to the work of healthcare science professionals are the thousands of HCS assistants associates information can be found here. These roles are also supported by apprenticeship standards at level 2 and 4, information can be found here on the Skills for Health website.
Healthcare science assistants and associates support colleagues across a range of healthcare science areas in the NHS:
Ø a pathology laboratory, processing samples of blood, cells or tissues
Ø a cardiology department, taking readings of a patient's heart
Ø a respiratory department, measuring a patient's breathing
Ø an audiology department, helping to identify and assess hearing and balance dysfunction
Healthcare science career pathways