This week the Trust that runs Shropshire’s acute hospitals is celebrating those who work behind the scenes and who are crucial to the NHS and patients in their care.

National Healthcare Science Week runs from today, 13 March, to Sunday 19 March and The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) is recognising the outstanding work of its healthcare scientists.

Science and technology are vital in modern patient care and change lives for the better. Healthcare Science Week raises awareness of the diverse careers in healthcare science and its aim is to inspire the scientific workforce of the future.

There are more than 300 healthcare science staff working across a range of specialisms at SaTH, which runs the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford. They include audiology, medical physics, medical engineering, pathology, cardio respiratory services, prosthetics and fertility.

Their work includes developing cancer treatments, helping to create families, diagnosing what is making a patient ill, repairing vital medical equipment such as kidney dialysis machines; and helping patients with heart and respiratory problems.

Professor Jason Kasraie, Consultant Clinical Embryologist and Andrologist at SaTH and also the Trust’s Lead Scientist, said: “Many healthcare scientists are working behind the scenes to ensure that our patients receive the best possible, often life-saving care. Others deliver direct clinical care and diagnosis to patients whilst also undertaking research and development to improve treatments going forwards.

“Healthcare Science Week is a fantastic opportunity for us to celebrate the incredible work of our healthcare scientists at the Trust and show the crucial role they play in patient care, diagnosis and treatment.

“Healthcare scientists can start as school leavers who begin at associate and practitioner level to graduates who can come in as bio medical scientists, or postgraduates can undertake the clinical scientist training scheme which can ultimately lead to them becoming a consultant healthcare scientist. There are a huge variety of careers and paths to follow.”

Meet some of our Healthcare Scientists

Mark Hardy, Consultant Clinical Scientist and Head of Radiotherapy Physics

I’m a physicist working in radiotherapy at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. Radiotherapy is the treatment of cancer with radiation. I lead a team of 24 scientists and technologists who maintain and test treatment machines, design the treatments using sophisticated computer simulations, make individualised treatment support devices, and safely introduce the latest equipment and treatment techniques in radiotherapy.

As a Consultant Clinical Scientist in radiotherapy physics, I am responsible for a wide range of elements of our support to radiotherapy. The work varies hugely from day to day and can include providing advice on unusual treatments through to identifying new innovations that we should aim to implement at the hospital. A major part of my role is leadership and management of the team, ensuring the day-to-day clinical support is provided whilst also overseeing progress of service development work within the team.

I began my own training after my undergraduate degree in physics; basic training to become a Clinical Scientist in medical physics takes three years and consists of hospital placements and a funded MSc in Medical Physics.  To become a Consultant Clinical Scientist, I undertook a further six years of part-time training including a Doctoral qualification.

I love that I can use my knowledge of physics to help save lives and alleviate symptoms from cancer, something I didn’t even know was possible when I started studying physics. I also enjoy the day-to-day variety of the job, exploring new innovations and technologies, as well as being part of a scientific team and developing and training staff. Knowing that I help keep patients safe and ensure their treatments are of the highest quality is a huge source of satisfaction for me.

Ines Chapa-Chorda – Newly-qualified Clinical Embryologist (Clinical Scientist)

I’m a Clinical Embryologist. My role mainly involves carrying out procedures in the laboratory such as collecting oocytes, performing IVF, assessing embryo quality, performing embryo transfers, and cryopreserving embryos and gametes among others.

There are different routes you can follow to become a Clinical Embryologist. I undertook the Scientist Training Programme, which is a three-year training course with work-based learning complemented with an MSc in Clinical Science. The completion of this course allows you to join the HCPC register, which is a requirement to practice as a Clinical Scientist.

I love everything about my job, I have the best job in the world. From being in the lab looking after embryos and performing procedures to talking to patients and supporting them through their journey. It’s wonderful to be a part of a patient’s treatment and to be able to help them start a family.

What would you say to someone who might be interested in working in healthcare science?

 With regards to embryology, if you enjoy patient contact and lab work then it could be a great fit for you. I think Clinical Science builds a beautiful bridge between lab work and interaction with patients. You’ll get to see how much of an impact your work can have on a patient’s treatment.

Becky Jones, Senior Clinical Scientist

I’m a Clinical Scientist specialising in Biochemistry. I participate in a duty biochemist rota which involves fielding queries from staff within the laboratory and other healthcare professionals. I am responsible for providing a quality check of abnormal test results generated from patients from within the hospital or in the community.

This quality process involves identifying acutely abnormal changes in results which warrant urgent communication. I have other responsibilities such as chairing the Duty Biochemists’ monthly meeting as well as other quality improvement projects.

After completion of my undergraduate degree in anatomy and human biology, I commenced work as a Medical Laboratory Assistant at RSH. I later became an Associate Practitioner based in Blood Transfusion. I decided to pursue a career as a healthcare scientist and applied for the competitive Scientific Training Programme (STP). I was offered a three-year (paid) work-based placement in East Kent Hospitals. It is here that I completed a portfolio of work demonstrating my knowledge and understanding of a range of topics in blood science and specialist biochemistry.  Alongside this, I completed a fully funded MSc in Clinical Biochemistry at The University of Manchester.

I enjoy spending time with my colleagues who are a huge part of my working day. I enjoy contributing to the diagnosis and management of patients where possible.

Amanda Rainbow, Lead Reporting Biomedical Scientist in Cellular Pathology

As the Lead Reporting Biomedical Scientist (BMS) in Cellular Pathology, my role is a mixture of laboratory management, specimen dissection and training to report gastrointestinal histopathology. I spend around 60% of my week reporting biopsies and larger resection samples under the supervision of one of the department’s Consultant Histopathologists. The rest of the time is spent working on strategic development of cellular pathology, governance and dissection.

I did my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and then completed a Masters in Cellular Engineering over 20 years ago. Now, an accredited Biomedical Science degree is the required route of entry, although other biological science graduates may be able to complete supplementary education to enable Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration.

My first role was as a trainee Biomedical Scientist in 2002 and I worked my way up to Head BMS. In 2020 I started the Institute of Biomedical Science Advanced Specialist Diploma in Histopathology Reporting, specialising in Gastrointestinal Pathology. I will be taking the Stage C exam, similar to the FRCPath part 2, later this year.

Once qualified I will be able to apply for a Consultant Biomedical Scientist role where I will be able to report certain specimen types independently.

I enjoy the varied nature of my job. I continue to have a leadership role and contribute to the future development of the cellular pathology service; we are part way through a major transformation of the service with digital histopathology, which will revolutionise how the department operates. However, I particularly enjoy the reporting aspect of my role, participation in the MDT and clinical audit.

Amber Haynes, Biomedical Scientist working in Haematology

I am currently a Biomedical Scientist (BMS) working in Haematology within a hospital laboratory. My role involves processing (predominantly) blood samples from their arrival into the laboratory to the release of the results back to the clinician. This requires sample labelling, computer entry, manual and automated techniques and theoretical knowledge to add additional tests and authorise results.

Qualifications required to become a BMS involve completion of an accredited degree in biomedical/healthcare science and completion of the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) professional portfolio.

Completion of the IBMS professional portfolio is a necessity however obtaining the required undergraduate qualifications can be done in a variety of ways – through completion of top-up modules in addition to a science degree or through an apprenticeship route.

I followed the apprenticeship route after working in specimen reception as a medical laboratory assistant for four years. The apprenticeship programme took four years to complete and combined work placed learning and development with scientific theory. The apprenticeship programme was delivered primarily on a distance learning basis through online lectures and webinars.

My job is very interesting. No two days are the same. You never know what samples and results you might see on any given day. I also love that even though we operate very much behind the scenes, this job enables us to make a difference and to help people.

Louisa Jakeways, Associate Practitioner (AP) of Biomedical Science

I am currently working in Blood Sciences and my role involves supporting my colleagues – biomedical scientists who are reporting patient results and medical laboratory assistants who process most of the patient samples.  Working with other healthcare professionals, we produce reliable diagnostics and ensure the highest standards of patient care.  I perform a mixture of tasks from manual testing of blood samples, troubleshooting and maintaining automatic analysers to training and administration tasks.

Whilst it is essential to follow protocols and management direction I still get to organise and plan my own workload.  No day is the same and there are always different tasks to carry out.  I also get to communicate with lots of different departments and specialties around the hospital and there is always something new to learn.

What would you say to someone who might be interested in working in healthcare science?

I would say if possible try and get to look around a lab, either through an open day or volunteering.  You will get an idea if it’s the kind of working environment for you and also which area of biomedical science interests you.   If you fall in love with it, like I did, then take opportunities that come up to gain experience and skills.