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Allied Health Professions key to NHS integration

But trusts must strengthen leadership arrangements to improve consistency

Mark Gould

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Allied Health Professions (AHPs) such as physician associates, radiographers, and theatre technicians have a significant role to play in the delivery of integrated urgent care in the NHS according to a new report.

But the quality of leadership of the AHPs will be vital in determining their impact and the quality of care that patients receive according to Leadership of Allied Health Professions in Trusts: what exists and what matters, commissioned by NHS Improvement and compiled by Kingston University.

Other key messages include:

  • NHS trusts should strengthen their leadership arrangements for AHPs, to improve consistency across England and empower senior AHPs to contribute more to clinical strategy, including areas such as systems transformation.
  • AHPs have significant transformative potential within health, care and the wider system, particularly as we navigate the opportunities of Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and adapt to the challenges of an ageing and more complex patient population.
  • The opportunity is there for trusts to look at how they can optimise and maximise the value that AHPs can bring to their organisations and systems working, particularly at a leadership level. And to look at the correlation between leadership and improvement when considering their AHP leadership arrangements.
The report was unveiled today at the fourth Chief Allied Health Professions Officer’s annual conference in London with NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens among several high-profile speakers addressing around 500 delegates.

Suzanne Rastrick, the chief AHP officer for NHS England, said: “This study throws down the gauntlet to us all and sets out the challenges for both the AHPs and NHS trusts for the future. But, with the growing significance of the AHPs within the NHS, I know these are challenges we can meet as we go forward.

“As the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday in July, this is an ideal time for AHPs to reflect on how they and their contribution to the health and care system have changed and can develop in the future.”

And Ruth May, the executive director of nursing at NHS Improvement, explained how the study highlights the variability within trusts regarding AHP leadership, and the opportunities for senior AHPs to develop as leaders.

She said that by starting the leadership self-assessment contained in the report, directors of nursing can work with their AHP leads to develop leadership arrangements that reflect their organisational and system needs and that encourage greater board engagement with the AHP professional offer.

She added: “AHP leadership is vital in shaping patient care and future health systems. Leadership matters and AHPs have the skills and the scope to transform care across systems, notably in areas such as patient flow, urgent and emergency care and length of stay. However, if we are to maximise their collective potential for quality improvement, we need to ensure that leadership arrangements within trusts are fit for purpose and reflect the value they bring.”

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