Home  Home | Contact us | How to find us | News | Accessibility
A member of Cambridge University Health Partners - www.cuhp.org.uk

News

« Back

12 March 2018

Healthcare Science Week 2018: “It’s about not taking things on face value”

As part of Healthcare Science Week 2018 (9-18 March), Royal Papworth’s Lead Healthcare Scientist, Dr Karl Sylvester, explains why the role is key to both patients and clinicians.

“Five per cent of the healthcare workforce is made up of Healthcare Scientists – but their work underpins 80 per cent of all diagnoses, as well as therapeutic interventions.”

It is a statistic generated by the Chief Scientific Officer's Department and it’s an often quoted line – deservedly so says Dr Karl Sylvester, Head of Joint Respiratory Physiology Services and Papworth Hospital's Lead Healthcare Scientist.

There are more than 100 Healthcare Scientists working at Papworth Hospital, covering a multitude of areas – from physiological sciences (involved in cardiac and respiratory physiological assessments and interventions) through to life sciences (including blood transfusion and biomedical work) and physical sciences (such as biomechanical engineering and equipment management). In fact, there are 54 Healthcare Science professions, although not all represented at every hospital. Karl says it is a role that “encompasses almost everything that goes on in a hospital setting”.

“If you think about a doctor in a clinic, he or she needs to know a diagnosis for their patient, so one investigation they routinely request is a blood test – that involves Healthcare Scientists. The blood is usually taken by a Healthcare Scientist, it is analysed by a Healthcare Scientist, on a machine that is safety checked and calibrated by a Healthcare Scientist.

“We’re involved in assuring the diagnosis, implementing interventions and then monitoring the response to those interventions – so, really assisting the whole patient pathway. “The best part is knowing that because of the investigations you’ve undertaken – the best, quality-controlled outcome assessment – you’ve got the best information about the patient to give to the doctor.”

Because of their involvement at every stage of the patient pathway, Healthcare Scientists have a unique perspective, says Karl. “They are renowned for their innovation. Any change of equipment, any new services, the Healthcare Scientists are the ones a Trust will turn to, to initiate that.”

And that innovation is now being tapped into by NHS England’s Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, which has recently opened up to Healthcare Scientists. “The role focuses you on critiquing things, not taking things on face value. It’s about proving that things work – you’re a scientist.”