Healthcare science

The healthcare science workforce, also known as the scientific workforce, are the fourth largest clinical group in NHS Scotland. Healthcare scientists are are an important part of the multi-disciplinary healthcare team. They contribute to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation services. Healthcare scientists collectively perform 80% of all diagnoses and are involved in the entire patient pathways from diagnosis, treatment to rehabilitation.

Healthcare science include over 50 different specialities, categorised into four different strands:

  • bioinformatics and data science
  • life science
  • physical science and clinical engineering
  • physiological science

More information on these different strands is in our healthcare science factsheet.

The Chief Scientific Officer provides professional leadership for the 7,000 healthcare scientists working in the NHS in Scotland.

The Chief Scientific Officer oversees the strategic direction for all healthcare science professions services in Scotland and leads on international health issues from a HCS perspective. The Chief Scientific Officer is responsible for the development of clinical leadership and capability of healthcare scientists and encourages better use of science to address health and social care policy agendas.

The Genome UK Strategy

We announced a new strategic network for Genomics: The Scottish Strategic Network for Genomic Medicine in May 2022. This work has engaged with clinicians, academics, industry and the healthcare science workforce to deliver on a genomics health service for Scotland. We have also funded a genomics transformation team within NHS National Services Division to support the network. 

The Diagnostics Strategic Network

A new Diagnostics Strategic Network has replaced the Diagnostics in Scotland Steering Group. The Diagnostics Strategic Network will provide strategic leadership for diagnostics within Scotland.

Demand optimisation

Demand optimisation is about providing the right test at the right time to the right person in the right way in order to reduce or eliminate unnecessary testing and enhance decision-making in patient care.

In February 2017 we published demand optimisation in diagnostics: standardising diagnostic testing in NHS Boards. The report highlights current good practice, guidance on strategy and support for implementing demand optimisation.

We funded the National Demand Optimisation Group (NDOG) in 2017 to develop a national approach to promote more appropriate laboratory testing. More information on the work of the NDOG is available on the National Demand Optimisation website.

Education and training

A baseline exercise was carried out in 2021 to scope the provision of healthcare science education and training in Scotland. This informed the healthcare science scoping review undertaken in 2022 which has highlighted the requirement for further work to be carried out.

More information on healthcare science education and training is on the NHS Education for Scotland website

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