Healthcare Science & The Patient Journey by Adele Foster

“Allow me to introduce you to the world of Healthcare Science”

Have you ever wondered just how many people are actually involved in a single patient journey?

It’s easy to account for people when you receive face to face care for example from Doctors, Nurses and AHPs but what about the unknown entity.

5 years ago I would never have known all the unique skills and talents that were used in the patient journey until I attended a meeting of those unknown entities. Even though my badge said that I was from Microbiology and the other attendees were from completely different domains, I found that I had something in common with them all.

So what was it that I, the above group and this picture have in common?

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(Taken from – Extraordinary you 2010 – Department of Health)

Science, Science was what connected us.

As a group we are all Healthcare Scientists and we make up the fourth largest clinical group in NHS Scotland. We are a diverse group comprising of more than 50 disciplines and are divided into three strands:

  • Life sciences the study of illness and disease – involving laboratory and phlebotomy services.
  • Physiological sciences are all about the study of the body and organs. This covers things like audiology, cardiac physiology and respiratory physiology
  • Physical sciences focus on developing techniques and technology for diagnosis and monitoring patients. Involves Medical Physics, Medical illustration and Maxofacial services


Collectively 60 million laboratory tests and 730000 clinical physiological measurements are undertaken by healthcare scientists, some of the services we provide are:

  • complex and specialist diagnostic services, analysis and clinical interpretation
  • direct therapeutic service provision and support
  • Introduction of technological and scientific advances into healthcare, and undertaking research, development and innovation

–          performance and quality assurance, risk management and clinical safety design and management

The Healthcare Science workforce plays a critical part in delivering healthcare. More than 80% of all diagnoses are reached with a contribution from healthcare scientists but it is not just to patient care, our skills are used for innovation and intervention

The model of healthcare is changing with increasing complexity and changing demographics, there is greater focus on preventative approaches and being pro-active instead of reactive.

So how does Healthcare Science fit in with this, and what can we contribute? – Many of us are behind the scenes in departments that most hospital staff have little reason to visit; this has led to us having often been described as the Cinderella service.

Over the past few years the Scottish government has supported Healthcare Science and has been very much involved in the creation of both National and Local lead posts. Most NHS boards now have a local lead and in NHS Dumfries and Galloway this is the post that I am very proud to have recently taken up and my reason for sharing this information with you today. We have a Healthcare Science Advisory Committee composed of different strands that feeds into Area Clinical Forum on a monthly basis.

On the 11th May, the Healthcare Science contribution was laid out in The Scottish Healthcare Science national delivery plan 2015-2020, this publication sets out service improvements that will deliver high quality and sustainable health and care services for Scotland. It focuses on:

  • Stream lining health technology management
  • Point of care testing
  • Demand optimisation
  • Developing sustainable services

–          Creating a new model for clinical physiology services

Adele 2The future vision within the delivery plan is that “healthcare scientists work with health and care teams and patients across the whole health system, driving proactive and flexible seven day services that provide diagnostic and service solutions throughout patient pathways and life course”

With the multitude of national visions and the ever changing landscape of health care provision it is all too easy to feel overwhelmed but we should not lose hope in the aspirations of our visions, but instead engage as a multi disciplinary team and contribute to new thinking, new solutions and new ways of working to ensure the future of health care is the best that it can be.

We as healthcare scientists are an integral part in helping to change service delivery and in transforming patient pathways, by being part of the whole patient journey. With the National delivery plan we have an opportunity to make ourselves much more visible and we have so much to be proud off.

I look forward to meeting and working with many of you over the coming months.

Adele Foster

Healthcare Science Lead NHS Dumfries and Galloway


Do you recognise some of these familiar faces of Healthcare Science within DGRI?

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If you would like to learn more about Healthcare Science please use the links below:


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