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How Allied Health Professionals can help reshape our NHS


As we emerge from the pandemic under a new government, the NHS is under scrutiny and faces some of its toughest challenges. Dr Emma Hyde, Associate Professor – Learning, Teaching and Pedagogy at the University, looks at the role of Allied Health Professionals in the changing NHS.

A report published by The Health Foundation in September 2022 highlighted the increasingly negative public perceptions of the NHS, and that the majority (55%) think that the general standard of care it delivers has got worse in the last 12 months. This is hardly surprising as it struggles to cope with the pent-up demand for its services created by the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst still caring for individuals who are acutely ill with Covid or suffering from long Covid.

The Health Foundation report goes on to state that just 13% of the public think that the government has the right policies for the NHS; despite that, 77% believe the NHS is crucial to British society and 71% would like to see a better funded health service rather than a change from the NHS model.  

What are Allied Health Professionals?

Stories in the media about the NHS often focus on doctors and nurses; however, the 14 Allied Health Professions (AHPs) are the third largest group of health care workers. AHPs are degree-educated health care professionals, such as paramedics, radiographers, occupational therapists, and operating department practitioners. They support individuals of all ages in a wide range of community, clinic and hospital settings. They support people to live their life as independently as they can, and have a direct impact on population health, by providing acute services such as on-the-scene assessment and treatment (paramedics), care during surgical procedures (operating department practice), promoting independence in daily living (occupational therapy), and creating eating plans (speech and language therapy).

AHPs can also undertake advanced and consultant practice level roles and take on caseloads previously managed by medical doctors, helping to create additional capacity within both primary and secondary care services. 

The political landscape

In the policy paper ‘Our Plan for Patients’ Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey has set out a clear mandate for improving NHS services by informing and empowering patients, supporting healthier lives, and tackling backlogs. AHPs are uniquely positioned to support these changes. For example, diagnostic radiographers are essential to the operation of the new Community Diagnostic Centres which provide diagnostic tests such as x-rays, CT scans and ultrasound scans, closer to home. And occupational therapists and physiotherapists are key to person-centred care which supports self-management of long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung diseases, and mental health through advice on exercise and lifestyle changes, wellbeing activities and social prescribing.   

Celebrating AHPs

AHPs Day, on 14 October, is an annual event which celebrates the contribution of AHPs to health and social services. Many AHP teams across the UK will be celebrating and showcasing the essential contribution they make to the delivery of health and social care services. They will all have the same goal – to raise awareness of the allied health professions and demonstrate the positive impact that AHPs have on health and social care. 

At the University of Derby, we are celebrating AHPs Day with a webinar which will highlight some of the fantastic work AHPs are doing. We will also celebrate the launch of a new massive open online course (MOOC) entitled Organisational Culture and Person-Centred Approaches to Care, which I authored. It is designed to support all health and social care professionals to deliver high quality person-centred care. Based on my PhD research and linked to my role as Clinical Director of the Personalised Care Institute, this free online course provides tools and techniques to embed person-centred care into everyday practice.

Dr Emma Hyde
Associate Professor in Learning, Teaching and Pedagogy, Provost for Learning and Teaching

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