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Safe, Accurate and Effective: An Action Plan for Healthcare Science in NHSscotland

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Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Well-being

Safe, Accurate & Effective; an action plan for healthcare science is the first policy document to outline the future direction of healthcare science within NHSScotland.

It is an important document setting out a strategic vision for a vital staff group. Yet it might be fair to say that the wider public may not know much about healthcare scientists and what they do - certainly not in comparison with their understanding of the roles of "higher visibility" occupations like medicine, nursing and the allied health professions.

Despite this, healthcare scientists are behind many of the diagnostic and treatment decisions that affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland each year. While healthcare scientists represent only around 5% of the total workforce in NHSScotland, almost 80% of patient diagnoses can be attributed to their work. And healthcare scientists are contributing significantly to key policy initiatives around HEAT (Health Improvement, Efficiency, Access, Treatment) targets and reducing waiting times.

Healthcare scientists represent a key expert resource of NHSScotland in terms of the safe, accurate and effective deployment of science and technology used to diagnose and treat patients.

Our vision for Scotland's healthcare policy now offers healthcare scientists an unprecedented opportunity to increase their capacity to influence, shape and deliver services that meet the needs of the people of Scotland. This will be vital, because increasing numbers of patients accessing services means increasing reliance on the safety and effectiveness of healthcare scientists' contributions. And the move to deliver more healthcare in local communities means that healthcare science may need to develop a greater community profile, with new models of service delivery and new and extended roles for individual scientists.

This action plan makes recommendations that will position healthcare scientists at the forefront of service delivery. It supports and encourages healthcare scientists to work proactively, developing new roles, promoting creative thinking and challenging assumptions about how healthcare should be delivered.

The action plan has three clear purposes. It aims to:

  • maximise the contribution of healthcare science to improving the health and well-being of the people of Scotland through safe, accurate and effective healthcare science interventions;
  • ensure that healthcare science expertise contributes to the development of sustainable clinical teams that will underpin the implementation of the new health policy agenda in Scotland; and
  • ensure that the clinical leadership, research capacity and capability of the healthcare science workforce is harnessed to contribute to national and local priorities that improve the quality of care and outcomes for patients.

Its central thesis is that healthcare scientists' contribution to patient care is founded on safe and accurate measurement and analysis as a prelude to effective treatment.

The action plan was developed through an inclusive process involving the Scottish Forum for Healthcare Science, healthcare scientists from across NHSScotland and workforce colleagues. I am grateful to all those who took part, and congratulate them on their achievement.

This is the start of an exciting time for healthcare science. I look forward to healthcare scientists becoming more visible within NHS services and playing a lead role in initiatives that are vital to patients, such as helping NHSScotland to reduce waiting times and improve safety.

They have not always received due recognition for the services they provide, but each healthcare scientist has something unique to contribute. I am determined that we should value and empower these key members of the healthcare team.

Signature of Nicola Sturgeon, MSP Cabinet Secretary for Health and Well-being

Nicola Sturgeon, MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Well-being