NHS England has published its healthcare science strategy for England, outlining how to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan with digital health and technology at its heart. Measures of success for the strategy include embedding innovative models of delivering scientific and diagnostic services, strengthening healthcare science research and fully integrating healthcare science across health and social care. For patients, this will mean support for earlier prevention and treatment, more non-invasive tests, better targeted therapy, better disease management strategies, improved access to services and more opportunity for self-care.
The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, identifies clinical priorities to improve patient care. The healthcare science workforce has an opportunity to bring new technologies into clinical practice, enable change in how care is delivered and promote engagement with innovation.
The strategy sets out four priorities that it will focus on.
Priority 1: Delivering transformation in scientifically-led services
• Consider new versatile and flexible roles to showcase how diagnostics will be delivered closer to the patient.
• This will be supported by a new flexible education and career framework.
• The NHS will be the first national healthcare system to offer whole genome sequencing as part of routine care.
• Continue to develop integrated models of care.
• Develop new flexible healthcare science roles to enable faster diagnostics closer to the patient, supported by more diagnostic hubs and networks.
• Embed UK Accreditation Services ISO standards in new contracting arrangements for scientific service models.
• Healthcare science workforce can use digital technology to support analysis of patient data. Data will be collected from a variety of sources, including phone apps and wearables.
• These innovations can help create an effective platform for the delivery of telemedicine and remote interpretation of medical data
• An integrated health informatics journey can enable a more effective prevention approach.
Priority 2: Attracting and supporting research and innovation in healthcare science
• Develop an environment conducive to clinical research and trials.
• Establish a research advisory group to take forward recommendations of the Healthcare Science Clinical Academic Career Review.
• Produce a research, development and innovation framework.
• Explore research delivery roles for scientific services and the healthcare science workforce.
• Test and evaluate innovation in current clinical settings, working in partnership with academia, industry and charities.
• Scanning future research provides valuable intelligence on rapidly developing innovations and can also identify areas where development is happening more slowly.
• The new framework will explore specialist roles in technology adoption.
Priority 3: Building a workforce to lead transformational change
• Develop a Workforce Implementation Plan which will introduce flexible entry routes, better careers, new roles and ways of working and competency-based development frameworks.
• Work to address the leadership challenges within the workforce.
• Engage a diverse group of clinical staff in leadership at all levels, including at executive level.
• Establish a healthcare science leadership infrastructure which will work to improve the availability of scientific leadership and advice.
• Strengthen multi-professional partnerships across education, training and workforce development to support transferability of skills and knowledge.
• Create opportunities and more clearly defined routes for the healthcare science workforce to be decision makers, and to have influence at all levels.
• Create capacity to evolve roles and provide training to meet system needs; new roles will include technology prescribers, data interpreters, and more patient-centred community based healthcare scientists.
• Review opportunities to reduce carbon, waste and water use in line with targets, including reducing the amount of staff commute and visitor and patient travel.
Priority 4: Partnering to improve and integrate information and knowledge
• Work within and between sectors, in collaboration and partnership with patients, providers, academia, industry and with the third sector.
• Ensure the healthcare science workforce has the tools they need to access and assimilate knowledge on emerging science and innovation.
• Develop stronger relationships with health and medical research funders to shape funding calls and work closer with industry partners to accelerate the adoption of new innovations into the NHS.
• Expand on the ambassadorial role of the healthcare science workforce by supporting wider initiatives to address the global impact of healthcare in combating disease burden.
• Create large scale and effective pathway transformation through closer collaboration between scientific services and regional integrated care plans, particularly for primary care and across community based settings such as social care.
• Involve more patients and the public in the design and testing of new technologies and new care pathways through patient forums and patient involvement events.