Professor Brendan Cooper
Prof Cooper has been both Chair and President of his professional body, The Association for Respiratory Technology and Physiology, and is the first President of the Academy for Healthcare Science. He works hard to promote ‘One Voice’ for all healthcare scientists by working with healthcare science professional bodies and Royal Colleges and, externally, with ministers for health, chief scientific officers and other healthcare organisations.
I’ve been pondering about a recent trip I made to Belfast and its unbreakable links with the Titanic. Thinking around the whole Titanic story I want to use an analogy between RMS Titanic and NHS Titanic to help change the patient/public perception of healthcare scientists.
Built more than 30 years after RMS Titanic, NHS Titanic was built to be watertight - with several improvements, modifications and upgrades - but is still sinkable if sailed recklessly!
On the bridge we find our NHS leaders in all the professions steering and controlling the ship, always trying to deliver a First Class service since, unlike other healthcare systems, there are no second or third-rate passengers (patients) in the NHS.
The passengers (patients) are looked after by the silver services provided by the patient-facing physiologists, nurses, doctors and allied health professionals.
However, what is often overlooked in the Titanic story were the people who worked in the engine room. On NHS Titanic, they’re the behind-the-scenes healthcare scientists stoking the boilers of the pathology lab or maintaining the engineering in the physics department.
All the crew are just as important as the team on the bridge, but rarely get the public recognition for what important roles they undertake every day.
We could consider the White Star Line of the health departments of the devolved governments, the commissioners and the monitors asking the ship to work harder and go faster, but providing no more fuel or safety as we head into dangerous waters.
However, in the lookout is the Academy for Healthcare Science (and other healthcare institutions/professions), looking into the gloom, guiding the officers and warning of the dangers ahead. Only a fool would ignore their cries.
By pulling together as one crew, with One Voice, we should, hopefully, never need the lifeboats of redundancy, privatisation or special measures. By adapting to the weather conditions with our experience, skills and intelligence, we can help save the ship and avert disaster.
However, that depends upon healthcare science leaders being given the opportunities to advise on helping to operate the ship and avoid the icebergs of uncertainty looming out of the mist.
We need to be vigilant, and alter our course and speed so that we help take our ship and patients on a safe passage. NHS Titanic should not be allowed to sink.
The next time you visit your GP or hospital and have some bloods done, remember the team of scientists in the pathology engine room - processing, analysing and accurately reporting the blood results.
You may be a patient with obstructive sleep apnoea and meet the clinical physiologists, who are scientists, not nurses.
The Academy for Healthcare Science is the overarching professional body that represents all branches of healthcare science in the four devolved healthcare systems of the UK.
We work to act as the One Voice of healthcare science, raising awareness of the needs of maintaining a strong, well-trained workforce, protecting patients from harm and promoting quality standards for all scientific services. Visit our website on www.ahcs.ac.uk