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AHCS President’s Message from Annual Conference 2016



Annual Conference in Cardiff 2016 – AHCS President’s Message

This year has seen a change in the world’s order, for example anti-establishment-ism, austerity, international terrorism, uncertainty – Brexit, Trump, Daesh, Putin, even a change of Prime Minister against expectation.

Healthcare Science too has felt the impact of the global forces of change, but we’ve experienced our own change in recent years – MSC Modernising Scientific Careers replacing traditional training, bachelor’s to doctorate training for all four branches of Healthcare Science, the establishment of the AHCS and the National School, and recently the changing way our training is funded and delivered.

However, all this is set a against a backdrop of another NHS funding crisis, further national health service reforms in the four nations and the ever-increasing demands on frontline health staff in both primary and secondary care.

Change can be seen as; a threat, increased risk, destabilisation, erosion of standards and quality, however it can also be seen as opportunity for change, different approaches, a chance to reassess what’s needed in an ever changing world. Standing still isn’t an option, unless you want to see the world pass you by!

For Healthcare Scientists there is a challenging paradox; as scientists we can be resistant to change, unwilling to grasp new ways, conservative, controlling and inwardly looking as a form of protectionism. At the same time, as scientists we are best when we think in the abstract, take calculated risks, use innovation, step into the unknown and create possibilities. It is in that interface between creativity with an excellent scientific understanding that we can begin to use science to make a difference and solve problems.

The scientists I have met and talked with in the last year have demonstrated a tension between delivering routine clinical service to meet increasing demands, or investing in research, service development or promotion of their skills. I wonder at how we balance these dichotomies.

In my own clinical service, we are torn between delivering a high volume, high quality sleep apnoea diagnostics and treatment service and trying to innovate new technology to remotely perform sleep studies in primary care and deliver remote monitoring via “the cloud”.   The innovation can improve care for patients and reform the problems in clinical service.  The 100,000 Genomes Project has many examples of this use of targeted healthcare “sharpening the scalpel” for greater precision and better outcomes. In short, adapting our practise to produce a more “prudent healthcare”, but which also has benefits in being more patient focused.

As President of the Academy, I am always looking to see how The Academy “One Voice” can be promoted, heard by those who can influence change, and supported by a multi-professional “church” of Healthcare Scientists who can deliver change.

Ultimately good science has to be linked with good communication to:

(a) the outside world, the public, patients, and healthcare organisations, as well as

(b) within science itself through professional bodies and scientists from many backgrounds themselves, and

(c) across all four nations.

In the last year, that is where our “One Voice“ has started to become very successful.

This years Conference illustrated this in several ways with examples of where a Healthcare Science “One Voice” adds to the already coherent professional bodies’ external output too.

“One Voice“ is not be a threat to our constituent professional bodies, but embraced as an additional bolster to our long established calls for recognition and support of world-leading standards.

“One Voice“ should keep emphasising common themes; promoting our genius, praising our heroes and heroines, maintaining standards of care to patients, education to trainees, as well as embracing change and delivering innovation. What becomes clear is that by delivering smarter, high quality and innovative healthcare more cost effectively, we can deliver Prudent Healthcare.

The conference examined these issues and showed examples of how we can deliver the Best of British Science in this age of increasing austerity. We heard from the Welsh health service experience of the challenges facing them, their reforms and how they will deliver prudent healthcare.

The conference was held in the beautiful and historic city of Cardiff, a city which proudly has a statue to the founding father of the NHS, Nye Bevan.  In his final speech to Parliament in 1959 he referred to  “..the difficulties of persuading the electorate to support a policy which would make them less well-off in the short term but more prosperous in the long term.”  In 2016-17 we have to once again face whether we have to be less well-off (prudent) in healthcare the short-term, to be more prosperous in the long term. Healthcare scientists can be central to deliver that change – but maintain the quality and standards of care the British public have grown used to expect.

I would like to thank all of you who travelled to Cardiff to participate in the conference, to those who spoke and presented and gave their time and of course to Chris Morrell and  the Welsh Government for supporting the conference,  the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport Vaughan Gething AM and Dr Andrew Goodall, Chief Executive of NHS Wales for coming to give their support, and to the team whose efforts made it all possible.


Dr Brendan G Cooper  B.Sc. (Hons), M.SC., Ph.D, C.Biol, FRSB, FERS

President, AHCS.

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