Peter Colley’s experience as an IAPS examiner

Being an IAPS examiner carries a significant responsibility, but it also offers a profound sense of privilege.


Peter Colley
Consultant Physicist, Head of Radiotherapy Physics Service
Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust


My healthcare science journey commenced as a trainee clinical scientist, and over the ensuing 25 years, I have garnered extensive experience in a range of roles, specialising in Radiotherapy Physics. Holding senior leadership positions as Oncology Information Systems Principal Physicist and Principal Physicist Lead for Radiotherapy Treatment Planning, I transitioned into a Consultant Clinical Scientist (CCS) role in 2014. At that time, Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) was not yet established, and my appointment was based solely on a local assessment interview. Driven to uphold the highest professional standards, I sought assessment against the emerging HSST criteria and subsequently underwent the Academy of Healthcare Science Equivalence (HSSE) process, culminating in my registration onto the Higher Specialist Scientist Register (HSSR). This registration serves as a contemporary testament to my competence as a CCS, as defined by the established sixteen proficiency standards across five domains.

In my current role as the Lead CCS in Radiotherapy Physics, I oversee the department responsible for providing the scientific and technical foundation for patients’ radiotherapy treatments. This position demands that I act as a pivotal senior member of the multidisciplinary team, fostering effective and collaborative partnerships with colleagues from diverse professional backgrounds to ensure that the multi-disciplinary approach is nurtured and upheld. By doing so, I strive to achieve the highest possible standard of patient care. I am responsible for establishing goals and standards for the Radiotherapy Physics Service to guarantee the enduring excellence of the clinical, technical, and scientific services we deliver.

Throughout my career, I have actively engaged in diverse roles that contribute to the education and professional development of others. These include:

  • lecturing as a guest speaker and serving as an external examiner for university courses
  • acting as an external moderator for the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) Technologist Training Scheme
  • actively participating in the local Scientist Training Program (STP)
  • engaging in the process of shortlisting and interviewing candidates seeking admission to STP

Driven by a commitment to improving patient care in healthcare, I have actively participated in various initiatives to enhance clinical services. I have volunteered to represent the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) on the Radiotherapy Special Interest Group and currently represent IPEM on the Radiotherapy Board. Under my leadership, the local Radiotherapy Physics department successfully completed the Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering (BS70000) accreditation pilot, demonstrating our commitment to the highest standards of care. We maintain accreditation to this stringent standard, awarded by the UK Assessment Service (UKAS).

Why is Higher Specialist Scientist Training important?

If you’re reading this, you likely already know the significance of HSST, but let’s briefly recap. HSST is a unique training program for healthcare scientists, designed to nurture the next generation of scientific leaders who will utilise their expertise to benefit patients and shape a brighter future for healthcare science in the UK. Completing HSST provides conclusive evidence of an individual’s ability to practice at the level of a CCS, demonstrating competence against the established 16 proficiency standards, assuring employers and patients of their capabilities.

To support the growth of my local Trust’s Radiotherapy Physics workforce, I volunteered to be an HSST Workplace Supervisor. Initially, this was to guide one of the team towards CCS level, aligning with our workforce development plan. Having already completed the equivalence process and secured registration, I had a solid understanding of the required standards and registration procedure. However, to adequately support our first HSST trainee, it was crucial to grasp the formal program and examination requirements in depth. Attending the Workplace Supervisor Training marked the beginning of my personal development in this domain; it became evident that I could further support local trainees by gaining more involvement and comprehension of the program myself, enabling me to address their queries and alleviate their apprehensions.

The opportunity to become an HSST Independent Assessment of Professional Skills (IAPS) Examiner has not only fulfilled my desire to assist local trainees but also provided opportunities to influence the HSST program.  In addition to the exam boards held after each round of IAPS exams, attended the examiners, the NSHCS supports examiners with regular examiner forums. These forums offer a platform to discuss the exam experience, the wider program, feedback from trainees and lay observers, and naturally, the perspectives of the examiner body. Regular sharing of ideas and experiences among examiners helps the National School of Healthcare Science refine and shape the future of HSST; assisting in maintaining its relevance and optimising the processes, particularly the assessment element.

Should I become a HSST IAPS examiner?

While volunteering to become a new examiner may initially appear daunting, it is important to note that ample support is available. For example, exams are conducted by a panel of three examiners, with the panel lead examiner possessing extensive experience and knowledge of the assessment process. Additionally, a standby examiner is always on hand to ensure the panel remains at three examiners should any unforeseen absence arise. As such, new examiners are not left to navigate uncertain environments alone.

My involvement as an IAPS examiner has unveiled the significance of effectively structuring and presenting a compelling evidence-based showcase. This experience has reinforced the criticality of meticulously selecting and presenting evidence to facilitate a high-level professional discussion during the examination. Without the first hand exposure provided through IAPS, I would be less equipped to offer insightful guidance in my role as a work-based supervisor.

In my experience, being an IAPS examiner carries a significant responsibility, but it also offers a profound sense of privilege. Evaluating candidates culminates in the opportunity to celebrate their achievements as they successfully complete their HSST journey.


Last updated on 10th January 2024