Apprentice progression to Foundation Science Degree in Pathology

Lab tech

22 / 01 / 2014

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTHFT) is a large district trust providing hospital services to approximately 370,000 people across Preston and Chorley, and specialist services to 1.5 million people across Lancashire and south Cumbria. Pathology at LTHFT provides a range of services for hospitals and GPs, and includes clinical biochemistry, haematology, immunology, blood transfusion, cellular pathology and microbiology.

What we did and why

Although the Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) career framework for assistants and associates Bands 2–4 is still in development, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals has been using this training model in pathology for some time to progress staff within Agenda for Change Bands 2 to 4, ensuring their training is clearly structured, and enabling future career progression if desired.

In cellular pathology, there are currently three apprentices who undertake a taught BTEC and work-based learning training programme. In the past, Band 2 staff have undertaken the same work-based learning as the apprentices to gain an NVQ level 3 in Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities. After gaining the NVQ level 3 staff are eligible to apply for Band 3 vacancies.

On gaining experience at Band 3, individuals can go on to apply for vacant trainee associate practitioner posts. Trainee associate practitioners then undertake a two-year funded foundation science degree in healthcare science and on completion of the qualification, become a Band 4 associate practitioner.

Trainee associate practitioners attend university one day a week along with work-based training in pathology, supervised by a mentor. The amount of time required for mentoring these individuals depends on the experience of the trainee associate practitioner.


In 2009, April started work in cellular pathology in a Band 2 bank staff post. In 2011, she secured a permanent band 2 post.

April then started her NVQ level 3 in early 2012, which she completed in early 2013. She was also promoted to a Band 3 post in late 2012 where she utilised her new skills including embedding, routine microtomy, cytology preparation and extended mortuary duties.

April was promoted again in late 2013 and began her trainee associate practitioner role at the beginning of 2014. She will begin a Healthcare Science Foundation (science) degree in September 2014. As a trainee associate practitioner, she will further develop her technical skills to include working in immunochemistry and undertaking automated staining and advance microtomy. She will also be responsible for the supervision of medical laboratory assistants and bank staff.


The MSC career framework 2–4 provides a clear progression route and learning pathway using core and scientific-based modules. On completion of the foundation science degree, staff could move onto the second year of the Practitioner Training Programme degree, which would be self funded.

It is hoped that both apprentices and existing staff will be able to progress through this framework when vacancies arise, providing Lancashire Teaching Hospitals with a skilled assistant and associate workforce, bespoke to the future needs of Pathology.

Further information

Dorothy Walmsley, Pathology, Training and Education Officer

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