Engaging with your healthcare science workforce

Healthcare meeting

21 / 4 / 2015 4pm

NHS employers have a role in recognising how opportunities in healthcare science can transform the way in which services are delivered and improve the quality of patient care.

As Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) continues to create opportunities and improve patient outcomes, it also brings with it the potential to make efficiency savings and improvements to service quality.  

In this section:

  • The benefits of good staff engagement
  • What does MSC mean for my workforce and our patients?
  • Where can healthcare science transform service delivery?
  • How does MSC contribute to NHS national priorities?
  • What is the role of the NHS trust board in healthcare science education and training?

The benefits of good staff engagement 

Staff engagement is key in helping the NHS meet the range of current challenges that it faces. By involving your staff in decisions and communicating clearly with them, trusts can seek to maintain and improve staff morale, especially during periods of difficulty and change. 

2015 staff survey results

Each year the NHS staff survey provides staff with an opportunity to give their views on their experiences at work. The healthcare science workforce emerge well from the 2015 staff survey, with high levels of engagement, good motivation and good levels of interest in their jobs. The levels of satisfaction in feeling their work is valued is quite low, though comparable with the rest of the NHS. This could be because it is estimated that the healthcare science workforce make up around 5% of the NHS workforce and at organisational level there is sometimes little knowledge about this part of the workforce. Opportunities to show initiative in their jobs are less than would be expected for this group and this may be about their ability to translate their ideas into change within their workplace. 

Employers have a positive challenge with the healthcare science workforce:

  • This group feel they can contribute
  • They are motivated and feel engaged in their job
  • They recognise how they make a difference to patient care

The work of healthcare scientists is understood to provide input to around 80 per cent of all diagnostic decisions often through an entire patient pathway. Engaging with the HCS workforce in the decisions that affect them and the services they provide, taking their ideas of ways to deliver better services will improve the delivery of healthcare services and the quality of patient care. Let them tell you how technology, innovation and new ways of delivering scientific services can create efficiencies and cost savings.

NHS Employers has created a range of information, tools and resources to help NHS managers and organisations develop and improve staff engagement locally within their organisation. You can also view and download our new healthcare science poster which provides some key facts about the healthcare science workforce and information from the staff survey results.

What does MSC mean for my workforce and our patients?

Recent reviews of the quality of care and treatment in the NHS have focused on the contribution of the medical and nursing workforce to the delivery of patient care, but the contribution of the healthcare science workforce must not be forgotten. 

MSC continues to change the education and skill mix of the healthcare science workforce, to ensure that it is trained and structured in a way to allow for future changes in service delivery and to maximise the benefits to patients of new scientific and technological advances.

Download our training pathways factsheet which describes the education and training routes available to the workforce.

Where can healthcare science transform service delivery?

The healthcare science workforce in the NHS is specialised and complex with over 52,000 staff  in England, employed in more than 60 specialisms they deliver over 100 highly specialist or sub specialist scientific/diagnostic and therapeutic services and play a critical role in the innovation pathway from invention through to adoption and diffusion of new technology. 

Read some practical examples of how they are transforming service delivery in our shared learning section.

How does MSC contribute to NHS national priorities?

Patient-led services that enhance the quality and outcomes of care are key in the Government's vision for the future of the NHS. MSC aligns with this vision, helping to improve quality, encourage innovation and improve efficiency in the NHS through:

  • structured career pathways
  • accreditation and NHS 'kite marking' of education programmes
  • postgraduate study to ensure access to a high quality specialist workforce
  • clearer and targeted workforce planning
  • an integrated and flexible healthcare science workforce
  • faster access to new treatments and world-leading healthcare discoveries.

The Francis inquiry (and subsequent reviews and reports) emphasise the need for an NHS culture where patients come first. Healthcare science can play a major role in achieving improvements in efficiency and effectiveness and delivering high-quality services - helping to meet the twin challenge of securing financial savings at the same time as improving quality of care. 

Visit our dedicated shared learning section where you can find examples of how MSC is making a difference in practice to patient care delivery.

What is the role of the board and HR in healthcare science education and training? 

Healthcare science needs to influence at every point in the NHS landscape, and NHS boards should be familiar with Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN).  AHSNs are partnership organisations in which local NHS organisations, universities, public health and social care will work together with industry to identify, adopt and spread proven innovations and good practice. Further information on their implementation is available from the GOV.UK website.

Every organisation should have a lead scientist(s) who is responsible for championing MSC locally and  ideally placed to link into the board. Local lead scientists represent the entire healthcare science workforce in the organisation and their role is to enable and empower healthcare science colleagues to participate in innovation, healthcare science career promotion and collaborative working.

NHS trust boards might want to consider:

  • using your organisational lead scientist to improve healthcare science visibility, ensuring inclusion in board-level decision making - where there is an impact on healthcare science services
  • including specific responsibility for healthcare science services in the remit of an existing board member and exploring connections between the board member and the local and regional healthcare scientist networks
  • supporting their senior scientist, heads of service and aspiring healthcare science leaders to develop leadership skills.

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