Presidents Blog

IQIPS Accreditation – Official Statement

Please click here to read the official position statements from the Association for Respiratory Technology and Physiology (ARTP) and Association of Gastro-Intestinal Physiologists (AGIP).

21st May 2018

Once upon a time, there was a big banquet held in London when the HRH Princess Royal was introduced to all the clever healthcare scientists across the (Eng)land to discuss how clever we all are and what a difference we make to the subjects across the land!

Well, we all knew we would all be introduced to HRH before the dinner, and it’s hard to know exactly what you could say to have any meaningful conversation in such a brief encounter. In point of fact the Princess Royal spent over an hour speaking with every healthcare scientist she met with kindness, interest and patience. Because I was in the last group it was all very rushed and I just managed a handshake and “Your Royal Highness” as advised, before she moved on. Doh!

As the last group on table 14, we assumed we’d be at the back of the room, relaxing & enjoying the awards. We were escorted behind Sue Hill, CSO & HRH into the room of standing guests, when it dawned on us we were on the top table! Imagine my surprise (& I might add mild panic), when I saw my place name next to HRH! Sue Hill was sat on her other side.

What would I say, how would I behave, how could I speak to this powerful, famous and influential member of the Royal Family. Was this real? Very quickly CSO & HRH took to the stage for 45 mins of awards! I discretely texted my wife at home; “Sat next to HRH. Help!”

After the presentations, where again HRH spent time to speak to every winner in considerable detail, the Princess Royal sat down next to me and I launched into “Well that’s the work done, now you can relax over dinner?” to which she replied “Well that was easy, it was a pleasure to meet all of them….”

So then we proceeded to discuss an enormous range of topics, with ease

& interest (well for me, the Princess Royal may have held a different view!!). Ironically, she had flown up to Birmingham by helicopter that morning to open my university’s amazing new swimming pool. I joked if I’d known that, I’d have met her up there! She casually mentioned how she’d been flown back to “Buck House” for the CSO Awards. She smiled and then laughed. Suddenly, the panic within me melted. HRH is not only very experienced, confident & very sharp, she also has inherited an excellent sense of humour & fun. I suppose when you meet thousands of people a day, and are held in high esteem, it makes much more sense to let people relax and be themselves so conversation can flow and be easy.

Sue Hill and I went on and explained the 52 branches of HCS and the 53,000 workforce and the variances in workforce diversity within professions & specialisms. She is Patron of WISE and was interested in the role of women at different career levels. She was also interested in ethnic diversity and whether the workforce matched the populations we serve. We touched on people’s responsibility for their own health, which we all agreed was a major stumbling block that has to be overcome in our health system and globally.

We then, whilst discussing genomics and genetic diversity, moved on to the need for genetic diversity in farm stock – citing her rare pig breeds and then applying the consequences of global farm animal diversity and the importance of mixing the genetic pool to resist diseases and environmental catastrophe.  She touched on her work as Patron of Save the Children and I was able to share my experiences of my recent trips to teach spirometry in Nepal.  We further discussed the juxtaposition of innovation and traditional life with the mix of worlds – the ox and plough with the mobile phone and the role of solar power & mobiles changing global rural life forever. Her knowledge on these issues is highly impressive.

Her diversity of conversation also included my own pet interests – motoring and cars – as we talked about her Scimitar GTE, the demise of Land Rover Defender and the problems of getting DVLA driving licences for horse box lorries!

Her knowledge and understanding of people’s lives, her experience and knowledge of cultures, industry, agriculture, science and technology is utterly breath-taking. I’m supposed to a professor but felt like I was merely a student! I was suddenly very grateful to have gone to a school where arts, sciences, sports & humanities were high on everyone’s agenda, and I only now truly appreciate the wisdom of that philosophy.

When it became time for HRH to leave I told her that her sense of duty was inspirational to all leaders and thanked her for all she does for healthcare science and the country.

The weirdest part was at the conference the next day when Sue Hill mentioned to the audience “….as I was discussing with Princess Anne and Brendan Cooper last night over dinner….!” It seemed so unreal.

I can now honestly say, if ever you have to speak with the Princess Royal (or any other dignitaries for that matter), just be yourself, be relaxed and show you have a sense of humour and enjoy the encounter.  You’ll be surprised at how much you learn and what you can say about the profession you are so proud to be a part of.  I am grateful that Sue Hill gave me this opportunity and I only hope I represented all of our healthcare scientists proudly by praising your lives and work.  And that’s the end of the story – they all lived happily ever after……….well until the next NHS crisis anyway!

10th January 2018

The media is alive with the current NHS winter pressures crisis – queuing ambulances, over 4hour trolley waits, increased admissions and patients at the front door – all related to the increasing respiratory admissions related to the current influenza outbreak. It has occurred to me how could this activity be impacting on our hard-working healthcare scientists who continue to support other clinical staff and patients throughout this difficult time.

Whilst the immediate winter crisis is putting added pressure on an already well organised pathology services, we have seen increasing demand on physiologists supporting ward work such as acute services like blood-gases, ECGs, non-invasive ventilation, etc.  Medical Physics imaging naturally is also taking the brunt of the increased activity.  Unfortunately, for the media this is out of sight, out of mind. HCS are resilient and flexible in their workloads – but chronically, these delayed operations will add to the burden further down the line as this week’s admissions become next months “follow ups”.  Whilst the acute National Emergency Planning Panel can solve the startling headlines, the undercurrent of underfunded scientific services is the dark shape looming up under the surface!


July 26th 2017

I was interested to hear Dr Suzy Lishman, President of the Royal College of Pathologists  being interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday morning this week.

The BBC reported: NHS England said based on its latest data, 54% of women screened are getting their results on time. Delays are being blamed on cytology labs struggling to keep staff as the screening process is replaced with another primary HPV screening- which will need fewer staff.

Dr Suzy Lishman, president of the Royal College of Pathologists, said although less than 50% of women were not getting their results within two weeks, 83% were getting theirs within three weeks.

“The effect is mainly anxiety but it is very unlikely to have an effect on their health as cervical cancer can take decades to develop.”

One consequence of the changes will be  that because of automation there is are likely to be redundancies in life scientists, but the waiting lists would come down. It has occurred to me that really the RC Path, IBMS and related professional bodies should be working with the Academy for Healthcare Science to explore ways of re-training life scientists into other areas of Healthcare Science where there are “pressure points” in the workforce. In my experience, I have met and worked with several previously trained life scientists who have become physiologists and delivered excellent patient facing Healthcare Science functions. Essentially we are all scientifically trained.  We cannot easily stop the tide of innovation and change and nor should we. We have to use the scientists we have to be flexible and forward thinking and respond to change or be lost from the scientific workforce. Using Accredited Scientific Expertise mechanisms we can re-shape the workforce proactively and not lose the excellent scientists we’ve spent years training and nurturing. The same will be true for the geneticists in the reducing numbers of Genomics Centres in the UK whom we must utilise to delivery expertise in “under pressure”  similar areas of Healthcare Science. 

Change can either be seen as a threat or an opportunity – and we must help our scientific staff take those opportunities.



Teaching Spirometry in Nepal – April 24th 2017

Day 1 – Taught spirometry to 20 health staff at Grande International Hospital, Kathmandu: attended ward round on ITU, handed IPEM poster to CEO of hospital, met a Nepalese researcher who is trying to publish research on lung function in healthy Nepalese people. All this in bright sunshine, crazy traffic and with amazingly inspirational people! Best regards, Brendan.

Brexit and the Academy – October 19th 2016

Dear Healthcare Scientists,

We have heard the verdict of the European Referendum and with pretty much a 50:50 split across the country we need to be sure that no matter what challenges lie ahead as the UK splits from the European Union, we have to be aware that many of your professional body members will continue to have strong professional links with Europe through European professional bodies, Royal Colleges and other scientific bodies. Personally I have just been given the Fellowship of the European Respiratory Society and plan to continue working closely with European colleagues on standards, guidelines and leadership of people in my profession. I am sure there are many more of you in the same position.

There is much legislation around health & safety and accreditation that has and will continue to have its roots in Europe, so I suspect that because of the globalised medical equipment world we live in, not much will actually change for a long time if at all.  The NHS has been used as a pawn in some of the campaigning and it will be a while before we understand the full implications, perhaps good and bad, on the services we all deliver.  We were always aware that the European Union was an important source of scientific research funding, which may be affected by different directions between European and UK governments.  However, as scientists we have a role in ensuring that where we can, we should maintain cooperation , links and support with our European colleagues , but also be open to ideas outside of Europe as well (e.g. USA, Asia-Pacific).

I think we can all agree that the political campaign was very poor from both sides with much misinformation, ignorance, accusation, frustration and intolerance evident across the board.  It seems only now in the cold light of day that the truths and impact of the decision is beginning to emerge. Fears are being replaced with realities, guesses with true implications, half plans with full consequences.  It is likely that the worst scenarios painted may not actually come to fruition, but change always brings uncertainty, lack of confidence and caution.  However, change also brings new opportunities, unforeseen consequences and a chance to improve some things for the better.  As healthcare scientists we should not be despondent.  We are used to uncertainty and exploring new ways forward – two essentials of research and innovation.

The Academy One Voice will continue to speak up for healthcare science interests, and use the change to bolster our cause with new political faces and forces.  We will continue to drive forward the quality and standards agenda and hopefully influence the new political/economic situation that emerges. Now is not the time to be divisive, not the time to be negative, not the time to over-react, but to be vigilant and patient for opportunities to get the best outcomes for our patients and healthcare science services. Keep Calm and Carry On being Professional!

Best regards,

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

President, AHCS

Healthcare Science Olympics – October 19th 2016

Well, I’m sure many of you are relieved that the Olympics is now over, not just because we have exceeded Team GB’s medal target, but that you can go to bed at a decent time for a good night’s sleep and not be lured into staying up until 2:00am watching Taekwondo, Archery on Beach Volley Ball!

Personally, I wasn’t initially interested in watching events from “halfway around the globe” in the “middle of the night”, but I have to say, partly because of the high quality coverage and editing, I became gradually more and more interested in the competitions, and especially  the Olympian’s and their personalities.  What makes ordinary people strive for excellence and achievement? What can Healthcare Scientists learn from the Olympics to help our day to day work?

Firstly, I was impressed by the level of collectiveness, belonging to one team and supporting each other, despite having different backgrounds and training in such a variety of sports. As healthcare scientists in at least 52 different professions, we all share some common training, but it’s in the implementation of our scientific services that we deliver excellent patient centred care, using best standards and maintaining the highest quality.

Secondly, it was refreshing to see that the apparent “barriers” of politics, race, creed and class seemed to be totally irrelevant when you are all pulling together to do the best you can as a single team – Team GB.  Furthermore, our prejudices, biases and attitudes change when we see our fellow humans from all nations on the earth, aspire, achieve, fail, win, re-try and exceed expectation. These very human qualities are the same feelings we endure every working day of our lives.

We can learn from our Olympians, that striving for the best, believing in ourselves and building our self-confidence is what makes us all great.  We should learn from each other and teach our juniors that being part of a team of Healthcare Scientists is worthwhile and beneficial.  The long dark “winters” of training and development can be rewarded in the “summer” of an aspiring career and becoming leaders. Even more exciting is to become a leader and train the next generation of “champions in our own professions.

Now that Rio 2016 is over, I am left feeling a mix of pride, well-being, enthusiasm and encouragement for the future.  In many aspects of my life I want to (just like Olympians) improve myself 10% across the board in everything – work efficiency, general fitness, body weight and take up long-abandoned hobbies and interests to improve my mental health too. The Olympics may hopefully press a “re-set” button in us all to get our scientific life back on course for Gold.  It doesn’t matter if we don’t get the gold medal – it really is the “participating” to the best of our ability that makes us good healthcare scientists. To all healthcare colleagues – go and achieve your goal, aim to be the best in your profession but remember you are a member of “Scientific Team GB” too and contribute to our future through the Academy.