Allied Health Professionals leading the way to more integrated care

Wednesday 13th February 2019

Allied Health Professionals leading the way to more integrated care

Suzanne Bolam is a registered Physiotherapist, Head of Therapies at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the current lead for the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw AHP Council

South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw is the first area in the country to develop an AHP Council – something which I am very proud to be a part of. To me, AHPs can play a vital role in the changing landscape of health and care services. But what is an AHP? And what is an AHP Council?

The term “AHP” is a broad one and represents a number of highly skilled staff working across a broad range of services – in fact, together we are the third largest group of health and care professionals in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw. We are supported by trained support staff who also play a vital role in delivering care and support to our patients and service users.  You can find a list of the kinds of AHP roles we have in our strategy which we launched last year.

Given our links across a number of sectors (including acute hospitals, community providers, primary care setting, schools, ambulance services, social care and the voluntary sector), I truly believe we have a unique opportunity to help achieve the ICS’ ambition of giving everyone in our region the best possible start in life, with the support to stay healthy and live well, for longer. A belief I think I can be bold in saying is also shared by my colleagues on the AHP Council.

Established just a few months ago, the Council brings together a diverse group of AHPs, representing a broad range of roles within our partner organisations, as a forum to drive both our AHP ambitions and the ambitions of the wider ICS. The Council also has representatives from the ICS Citizens’ Panel and other workforce development groups who help shape our priorities and work plans. We have met twice as a Council and I would like to thank everyone for their commitment and also share a few examples of the items we have discussed so far and how, I believe, AHPs can really start to add even further value to improving health and care.  

Linking very closely to the work being undertaken by the ICS looking at Advanced Clinical Practice roles we have started to explore how, by developing and extending our roles and working slightly differently, we can really support General Practitioners and their teams with workforce transformation in primary care. We aim to develop more “first contact” roles and help patients to receive our assessment and advice at the earliest opportunity. At our latest Council meeting, we discussed the funding that has been received from Health Education England (HEE) to explore the role of AHPs in this work and also see how this can be applied in other health and care settings. This is an exciting seven month opportunity which will specifically look at the current gaps and opportunities there are in Musculoskeletal (MSK) skills and support across the ICS. We can then identify how, as a system, we can improve the service patients receive and also the potential career opportunities for AHPs working across primary care. Applications to lead the work closed last week and I am excited to see how this, and future posts, develops.

We have also been introduced to the Living With and Beyond Cancer and Cancer Alliance programme of work, and how AHPs as a workforce group have even more opportunities to be more involved and better support services for those patients and families affected by, and living with, cancer. A number of reports have been published nationally looking at an AHPs’ role within cancer services, namely, NHS England’s, the role of allied health professions in supporting people to live well with and beyond cancer, and the Macmillan AHP workforce report and the AHP Council have agreed that this is definitely an area of work we can further explore locally and add value to. We will now be working closely with the lead for Living With and Beyond Cancer programme to discuss our next steps.

Looking to the future, we’ve discussed a project soon to be underway in partnership with our local universities to explore how we can best support student education across our ICS. I am delighted that AHPs will be represented in this forum – it is essential that we continue to attract students into AHP careers and help them develop their professional skills in a forward thinking way.

At the end of our second meeting we also discussed how we can become more involved with other workstreams of the ICS – for example, helping in the next steps of the review of hospital services in the region, particularly where there are obvious links already in place, such as supporting the implementation of the regional stroke service and acute and community rehabilitation services.

To me, our full agendas really show the breadth of opportunities we have as AHPs to help shape the next steps for health and care locally, regionally and nationally. It is an exciting time for development of the AHP workforce and I am very much looking forward to taking this forward with my AHP Council colleagues and all our great staff and partners across the region.

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