Developing the Bands 2-4 role in diagnostics


05 / 01 / 2012

The organisation

University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust (UHNS) runs three hospital sites: Royal Infirmary, City General and Central Out-patients and serves a population of over 600,000. From these sites the trust provides extensive emergency, general and specialist hospital and tertiary services.

The teaching hospital operates in partnership with Keele University and has a patient-centered clinical research facility providing state of the art facilities.

What we did and why

UHNS saw the Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) programme as a way to improve workforce planning by bringing healthcare science education and training in line with other healthcare professions. The trust became an early innovator and implementer and their focus was to re-profile the Bands 2-4 workforce.

The trust wanted to ensure that diagnostics were being performed by the correct band of staff. To do this, they carried out a review of the tasks performed by their healthcare science staff. This involved looking at the key investigations carried out by staff and deciding at which level these could be safely carried out.

This analysis of the workforce demonstrated that many tasks currently performed by Bands 5 and 6 could be performed by Bands 2-4. Training programmes were therefore reviewed and developed.

How we did it

Initially the trust carried out an Electronic Staff Record (ESR) data cleanse to clearly identify their healthcare science workforce.

 The next step was to carry out a benchmarking exercise which involved discussions with other NHS trusts and organisations to measure against what other specialties do within respiratory and sleep services.

The following steps were taken:

  • analysis of tasks and bands
  • decisions on which band can appropriately perform tasks
  • development of a two stage workforce model which grouped staff into the three assistant/associate and practitioner categories in line with the MSC career framework
  • staff engagement to suggest new ways of working.

The trust then began to look at the education programmes that professional bodies and the university offered.

They then assessed the qualifications held by their existing qualified healthcare scientists and discussed whether any of the various training programmes could be undertaken by the Bands 2-4. It was decided that these training programmes could be used across bands.

Results and next steps

The new assistant/associates now perform most of the routine investigations that were previously carried out by Bands 5 and 6 staff. For staff carrying out some practices that require senior involvement, there are supervision measures in place.

This shift has enabled senior scientists to concentrate on advanced diagnostics and costs benefits are expected to become apparent through natural attrition where higher bands, when appropriate, will be replaced by a Band 3 or 4.

Next steps include:

  • ensuring current workforce are assimilated appropriately over to the MSC career framework
  • increase networking both regionally and nationally
    identifying skill gaps within the current workforce and aligning future services and staffing
  • support students undertaking Scientist Training Programme and Practitioner Training Programme placements
  • develop cross working within physiological specialties.

Tips for other trusts

  • Challenge current practices within education – utilise training programmes across bands.
  • Understand the healthcare science workforce within the trust and identify all staff in ESR.
  • Constantly look at new ways of working, which sometimes means radical thinking.
  • Promote good leadership, strong communication and the networking of key information through the trust.

Further information and contact details

Ian Cliff, Department Head: Respiratory and Sleep Physiology and MSC Lead  


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