The Healthcare Science Industry

Healthcare Science is a broad term encompassing a highly diverse scientific workforce. The aim of this workforce is to improve the health and well-being of patients and the public. Healthcare Science is undertaken by a highly trained scientific workforce practising alongside doctors, nurses, and other health and social care professionals in the delivery of healthcare.

Healthcare Science is critical, not only for the delivery of current healthcare, but also to develop innovative tests and treatments for the future, in light of scientific discovery and the evolving needs of patients and carers. Whilst scientific practise is extremely varied, common to all approaches is the application of scientific principles and understanding to improve human health and wellbeing.

Healthcare Science falls into four broad and overlapping areas – the four divisions. These are:

Life sciences

  • Applied Epidemiology
  • Blood sciences – haematology / immunology / clinical biochemistry
  • Infection sciences – microbiology / virology
  • Cellular sciences – reproductive medicine / histopathology / cytopathology
  • Genomic Sciences

Physical sciences

  • Radiotherapy physics
  • Imaging with ionising radiation
  • Imaging with non- ionising radiation
  • Radiation safety physics
  • Clinical pharmaceutical science
  • Clinical measurement and development
  • Rehabilitation engineering
  • Reconstructive science

Physiological sciences

  • Audiology
  • Ophthalmic and vision science
  • Neurophysiology
  • Gastrointestinal physiology
  • Urodynamics
  • Critical care science
  • Cardiac science
  • Vascular science
  • Respiratory and sleep physiology

Bioinformatics

Clinical Bioinformatics is a cross-divisional field. This is an increasingly important emerging division within Healthcare Science, due to the NHS Genomics and Personalised Medicine agendas.

There are currently three specialisms within clinical bioinformatics:

  • Genomics
  • Health Informatics Science
  • Clinical Bioinformatics for the physical sciences
Photo Credit: BSHI (British Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics)
Photo Credit: BSHI (British Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics)
Photo Credit: BSHI (British Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics)

Members of the Healthcare Science workforce perform a range of different roles depending on their qualifications, experience, and level of specialisation. Healthcare Scientists provide an extremely important contribution to the diagnosis of diseases and monitoring the treatment of patients, delivering almost a billion diagnostic tests every year.

They intervene throughout entire care pathways from diagnostic tests to therapeutic treatments and rehabilitation and although this workforce comprises approximately 5% of the healthcare workforce in the UK, their work underpins 80% of all diagnoses and clinical decisions made.

Examples of the type of work they undertake include:

  • Advising, diagnosing, interpreting, and treating patients.
  • Advising health and social care professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.
  • Researching the science, technology and practise used in healthcare to innovate and improve services.
  • Designing, building and operating technology for diagnosing and treating patients.
  • Ensuring the safety and reliability of tests and equipment used in healthcare.

Read more about the range of work that Healthcare Scientists do in the publication Extraordinary You

Read more about the career framework for Healthcare Science and the education and training routes