Healthcare Science Practitioners
Details of the role, training and skills of Healthcare Science Practitioners.
What Healthcare Science Practitioners do:
Practitioners in the field of Healthcare Science apply technology in the delivery and reporting of quality assured tests, investigations and procedures. Practitioner activities are outlined in protocols but practitioners use judgement and deal with ambiguity.
Practitioners will have the necessary expertise in applied scientific techniques within a specialism or related specialisms and will work in a range of healthcare settings.
Practitioners are responsible for the analysis of a wide range of diagnostic test that contribute towards the medical assessment an individual’s health status, and potentially identify the presence of disease. They obtain scientific information that assists in the diagnosis of disease, and alongside other healthcare professionals, contribute towards the monitoring of health, and the delivery of patient care. Healthcare Science Practitioners may assess the effectiveness of treatments and ensure that they are working correctly. In some scientific disciplines, Practitioners will provide therapeutic interventions, some of which may be specialist.
Healthcare Science is a dynamic and continually evolving profession that requires highly trained staff to perform a range of up to date techniques that contribute to the care of patients. They are also involved in the research and development into newer, more effective treatments that will improve patient care in the future.
Education and Training to become a Healthcare Science Practitioner
To become a registered Healthcare Science Practitioner, individuals would need to either:
a) Successfully complete a BSc (Hons) Healthcare Science degree, [otherwise known as a Practitioner Training Programme (PTP)] at an approved university.
b) Successfully undergo the PTP Equivalence process or Certificate of Competence process with the Academy for Healthcare Science.
The PTP comprises BSc (Hons) degree programmes in five themes across Healthcare Science, which will be delivered, and quality assured by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The degree programmes will integrate academic and work-based learning.
What Healthcare Science Practitioners need to know:
The PTP curricula detail the knowledge, skills, experiential learning and associated personal qualities and behaviours (professionalism), which a Healthcare Science Practitioner will need to work safely and effectively.
Learning is delivered through approved and accredited BSc honours degrees. These degrees will include 50 weeks of workplace-based training in the NHS over three years with broad scientific training, followed by specialisation.
HEIs will develop degree programmes based on the agreed framework and high-level curriculum content specified by the National School for Healthcare Science working with Health Education England and colleagues in the profession. The degrees should deliver the specified learning outcomes and the requisite balance of academic and work-based learning. HEIs’ degree programmes will address equality and diversity issues, as is their responsibility as a public body.
The detailed curricula will also deliver the specified learning outcomes for the Work Based learning. These outcomes are described in Learning Guides which further define the knowledge, skills and experience needed to work safely and effectively as a Healthcare Science Practitioner. Work-based attainment will be assessed using Competency Logs or Portfolios of Learning, which will provide a record of the student’s attainment.
There are currently five BSc programmes covering Life Sciences; Physiological Sciences (Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Sleep); Physiological Sciences (Neurosensory Sciences); Physical Sciences & Biomedical Engineering (Medical Physics) and Physical Sciences & Biomedical Engineering (Clinical Engineering). The learning outcomes and indicative content for each programme are described in curriculum guides and more detailed work-based learning outcomes within accompanying Learning Guides.
The curricula and learning outcomes can be found on the MSC curricula website.
The MSC Curricula NHS Network also had a list of accredited PTP programmes.
The Practitioner Equivalence process:
The PTP equivalence process is an assessment of an individual’s prior knowledge, skills and behaviour gained through work experience, prior learning and education, matched against the curriculum of the PTP training programme. The Practitioner Standards of Proficiency and Good Scientific Practice are used to assess equivalence in the context of the relevant PTP outcomes.
If an individual provides evidence assessed by a trained panel, to show that they are trained, competent and meet the standards of Good Scientific Practice to the same level as someone who has successfully completed a PTP, they will be awarded a Certificate of Equivalence by the AHCS and are therefore eligible to apply to the AHCS Register for Healthcare Science Practitioners. More details of the process are available in the PTP Equivalence Handbook.
The AHCS Practitioner Register has been developed to enhance public protection and raise professional standards so that the public, employers and commissioners can choose to use Healthcare Science Practitioners who meet high standards of personal behaviour and technical competence. This enhances public protection and assists the delivery of high quality patient care. Read more about the AHCS Regulation Council and its work.
Clinical risks occurring in the work of Practitioners
Through developing a thorough understanding of risks presented by Practitioners the AHCS drafted and consulted upon the standards of proficiency to mitigate against this risk.
Individuals who are not registered with the AHCS have not demonstrated that they meet set standards of behaviour and competence integral to the register. Therefore unregistered Healthcare Science practitioners would have not have formally demonstrated a particular level of professionalism and competency which may be of concern to patients, commissioners and employers.
Continuing Professional Development
Healthcare Science is a continually changing, dynamic, professional and scientific discipline concerned with understanding how diseases develop and how they may affect the normal functioning of the body. The aim of the discipline is the investigation of the disease process and, ultimately, the development of methods for monitoring, diagnosing, treating and preventing disease.
This means that the knowledge base of a Healthcare Science Practitioner must be updated and maintained on an ongoing basis. All registered practitioners sign up to the AHCS CPD programme and therefore maintain their professional knowledge and skills throughout their careers.