Allied Health Professions (AHPs) Day – Wednesday 14th October

Posted 14th October 2020

Q&A with The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre’s first ever Chief Allied Health Profession (AHP) Officer Linda Williams to celebrate AHPs Day. Linda, who is also the Trust’s Business & Clinical Development Manager for Radiology, was appointed Chief AHP in December 2019 and has made huge bounds in promoting AHP roles here at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

Q. What is Allied Health Professions (AHPs) Day?

AHPs Day is a grass roots tribute for AHPs, celebrating who we are, what we do and why AHPs are so important to good patient care.

Q. Who is part of the AHP workforce?

AHPs make a successful contribution to patient outcomes across nearly every aspect of a cancer patient’s journey and within The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre there is a large AHP workforce that consists of:

  • Dieticians
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Diagnostic Radiographers
  • Therapeutic Radiographers
  • Speech and Language Therapists

We have more than 200 AHPs working across The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre which makes them the second largest workforce in the Trust after our nursing colleagues.

Q. What has been happening since you have been appointed as Chief AHP?

We’ve held two AHP forums including a workshop to inform and develop the plans for our new strategy as well as a recent leadership meeting to bring all the work for our future plans together.

We have also developed links with the University of Liverpool’s Nursing and AHP Research Group to ensure we are closely aligned with innovation and research, and aware of any funding routes to support staff in their research development. As part of this group a virtual research conference successfully took place last month to encourage clinical staff new to research.

Sharing knowledge and learnings with our AHP colleagues across the country has been vitally important and we have made links with AHP leads in other UK cancer centres so we are able to benchmark our service. This network will ultimately provide the best possible experience for people with cancer no matter where they are treated.

We have also participated in the Cheshire and Merseyside Practice Place expansion bid that has been successful in achieving £200,000 to assist in increasing our student numbers across the region. I have also written a joint article with Head of the School of Radiography to share more widely how we managed to maintain the necessary clinic placements for our students during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

During my first year as Chief AHP we have continued to provide the very best possible patient care despite the coronavirus pandemic and we recently took part in a skills scoping exercise in preparation for the second wave of coronavirus. We already have AHPs integrated with the Trust’s Matron structure as part of the Patient Safety Team and will soon be expanding this to include additional AHPs too.

As Chief AHP I have also joined the Cheshire and Merseyside AHP Council to ensure The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is engaged in regional developments for AHPs. The Council is made up of AHP leads who decide on the priority issues facing AHPs working in Cheshire and Merseyside. A ‘faculty’ has also been developed to work alongside the Council on the priorities the Council has determined who use a project management and quality improvement approach to design project and test out ideas to address these issues.

Q. How have AHPs at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre adapted to working through the coronavirus pandemic?

There is a great diversity of AHP roles within The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, however everyone has shown themselves to be adaptable, resilient and multi-skilled whilst maintaining the high quality service that our patients deserve.

Providing the best possible experience for people with cancer has always remained our priority and throughout the pandemic we have made some key developments that have enhanced patient care. We’ve changed the way we communicate using technology such as Microsoft Teams and WebEx and adapted how we review our patients to hold remote clinics for their safety.

We have also navigated the challenges of wearing PPE to protect ourselves and our patients and also the necessary deep cleaning of equipment between patients to ensure activity levels are maintained to keep our services running.

With the closure of universities due to lockdown, we employed some of our AHP students to support the workforce which has also enabled them to continue gaining much needed experience and we’re really proud that some have continued working with us now they’re fully qualified!

Q. The NHS Long Term Plan has lots of aspirations for AHPs, how are you helping to meet these?

The NHS Long Term Plan speaks of several aspirations for clinical services and for AHPs as well. To reach these aspirations, it will be necessary to increase the supply and retention of AHPs to meet the demand in the next 10 years. This can be done by:

  • Expanding clinical placements – we already work closely with universities and have agreed additional student placements for Therapeutic Radiographers, Diagnostic Radiographers and Dietitians.
  • Offering apprenticeship routes AHP assistants – we have got a member of the AHP team involved in the task and finish group to work through how this project can be taken forward.
  • Developing Advanced Clinical Practitioner (ACP) roles for AHPs – at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre we are very forward-looking with progressive practitioner roles and have six Consultant Radiographers that have been in post for a number of years. We are looking at developing even more. Other role development has included expanding the scope of practice into ACP roles such as Reporting Radiographers.
  • Developing existing staff-our AHPs leaders are integrated into the Trust’s study leave committee to ensure staff have a good route for training and development aspirations. The AHP strategy will further enhance this to ensure equity for training and development opportunities across all the AHP professions.
  • Recruitment and retention of key AHP staff and supporting those who are returning to practice – recruitment, retention and return to practice will be key elements focused on within our AHP strategy to ensure the future of AHPs with the Trust remains secure.

Q. What plans do the AHP team have for the future?

The AHP leadership team are working together with our AHP workforce to develop a specific AHP strategy which will fully integrate with the Trust’s priorities. The AHP strategy will inform, shape and define the structure and development of AHPs within The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

AHP clinical developments will also promoted to ensure high quality patient care is continually improved. Having a Chief AHP role with enhanced reporting structures means AHPs are now better placed than ever to influence improvements in our patient care… watch this space!