Berne’s blog – October 2020

This month's blog from our Head of School talks about life during COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter.

Published on
15th October 2020
Filed under

Hi everyone,

I’m writing this blog at the end of the wettest first weekend in October in living memory, while we all wait for Storm ‘Alex’ to appear. Baton down the hatches everyone.

Black Lives Matter

We have started our work at the School to ensure that equality and diversity, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic issues, are front and centre in much of our work going forward. Some of the initiatives include:

An internal School diversity committee stood up

We have had three meetings now and this committee is part of the School business as usual work. Some of the issues we have worked on include:

  • A review of the new core curriculum for STP to ensure that equality and diversity content is pertinent and current. An example of this would be that the ‘Culture and Values’ bullet point, that occurs throughout the core curriculum, needs to be strengthened and expanded. It needs to specify whether it refers to ethnic background and protected characteristics.
  • We have begun work on equality and diversity further training for all staff in the School.
  • An examination of the School website. The website will include new work and content, so that the wider public and stakeholders are aware that the School is an open and inclusive environment to apply to work in and we welcome people from all backgrounds.
  • Aspiration raising case studies will be included on our website to highlight trainees from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
  • A recognition of Black History Month by recognising and celebrating the internal diversity within the school at our weekly school staff meetings. We also plan to acknowledge black healthcare workers on our channels.
  • Joining in with activities in the Wider HEE for Black History Month.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic STP Trainee network

The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic STP Trainee network met with the school on 14th August and we will keep in touch regularly on all issues. The Trainees led this meeting and I want to stress that we, as the Hub for scientists training, welcomed their questions and I hope they agree that it was a very productive meeting. We are genuinely pleased that they are interested in taking these issues forward and we will work with them all the way. There is a dedicated page on our website with information about the network and how to join. Click here for further information.

Some of the issues we discussed were around:

Recruitment – Specifically how poor the outcomes are for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic applicants. We really want to work together with colleagues to make these outcomes much, much better. The School is undertaking an external analysis on the recruitment process.

Equality and diversity for Trainers – Ensure that trainers are trained in equality and diversity.

Aims of the Open Letter to the School around Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic issues – Colleagues at the School talked about how they were engaging with all staff and with wider anti-racism literature and media in general. Can I ask that everyone continues to engage with the School around any of the issues mentioned above, around Black Lives Matter, or in the diversity arena.

COVID-19 Thank you

Once again, as we continue into the next six months of COVID-19, I can only continue to thank all of you for the brilliant work you are doing. Here at the School we are working hard to contribute to the effort of all healthcare scientists. However, we want you to know that we admire and are so grateful to all of you for going into hospitals and other Trusts every day. So, we salute all the frontline and backroom NHS staff, doctors, porters, nurses, paramedics, physician associates, AHPs, hospital chaplains, catering staff, volunteers, pharmacists, managers and to all their families-and to all our colleagues who care for patients and the vulnerable in care homes and community settings around the country.

Once again, I make no apology for singling out all of our incredible Healthcare Scientists (and your families). Who despite all of you confronting demanding situations both in work and personally, continue to work tirelessly to help patients at this time. It is you that I want to single out and acknowledge.

Apprentices in Healthcare Science (HCS)

HCS apprentices are continuing to train and contribute not just to the COVID-19 response but are fulfilling everyday commitments. The School is working hard to continue to support and champion apprenticeships at all levels. Again, many thanks to all of you and to your support network of departments, trainers and supervisors in your Trusts. Graham Wilson, as our apprenticeship lead, will continually update information for you. Visit our frequently updated webpage for developing information.

End-point Assessment Organisation (EPAO)

You will be pleased to hear that the School hosts the only EPAO in HEE and that it is the only EPAO for healthcare science standards. Boota Singh and Amrita Nanra in the Apprenticeship End-point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) shared a snapshot of the EPAO s work, which includes:

  • Completion of close to 100 EPA assessments since commencement
  • Working with over 30 education and training providers and 39 employers
  • Greater than 250 End-point Assessments in the pipeline
  • Training delivered to over 50 EPA Assessors

Click here for End-point Assessment updates.

PTP students

While this pandemic is one of the most difficult and trying times in the last century for all of us, I want to acknowledge the particular tough time you guys are having. With the benefit of my great age and with my immunology persona on, I can only tell you that it will pass. However, this does not mean that you are not having to live and study in a fast moving and constantly shifting environment and it is uncertain and exhausting. As I’ve said before, well done for persevering, keep going, it will be worth it in the end. Click here for further information for PTP trainees.

Congratulations to those of you who are on the HCPC Biomedical Science Temporary Register and PSA accredited registers. Once again, I acknowledge all of your university lecturers and university departments, all of whom we are in touch with. They really do care about you and are trying to ensure that your educational experience is as positive as possible in these unprecedented times.

Graham Wilson is keeping in touch with all of your universities. Please let us know if you need us to help in any way. Click here for further information.

There will be a webinar on ‘OneFile for PTP trainees’, which is being held on Wednesday 3rd November 2020. Click here for further information.

If you missed it, you may also find it interesting to read the major PTP review which was published earlier this year. Click here for further information.

STP Trainees

2020 Recruitment to STP

As you will all know, the pandemic led to the cancellation of the STP Interviews at short notice. The School had to act rapidly to devise fair, transparent alternative interview arrangements that were acceptable to all scientists in the NHS and STP programmes. The School consulted widely on alternative plans. Those we consulted with included HEE Gold Command and HEE Executive, the AHCS, the HCPC, lead station writers and other senior scientists, as well as other education and recruitment experts. The resulting recruitment process during COVID-19 in 2020, turned out to the most successful recruitment of STP scientists to date. There were 411 STP positions filled across the four countries of the UK, with fill rates for essential posts being equivalent to previous years.

Applicants were overwhelmingly supportive and there were no complaints from employers. Which is not to say that employers did not feed back on how the process could be improved in future years. This feedback was very welcome and in collaboration with scientists around the country, the recruitment team at the School will work to develop an even better recruitment process for 2021. It is clear that face to face interviews will be highly unlikely to take place.


First, welcome to all the first year STPs who joined the programme last month. In the absence of our usual face to face induction day, where you would have had the chance to meet everyone in person, the School adapted all the information you would have received into a series of related webinars. Click here to watch the webinars.

I hope you are settling into the programme and we will keep in touch with you going forward, to hear your stories and concerns.

In addition to the webinars for the first years, the School provided a number of webinar ‘question and answer’ sessions for current STPs and in case you missed them, click here to view the webinars.

Jane Lynch and Namir Al Hasso, your STP Training Programme Directors, are always on hand to help with any problems. We are trying to respond to all your queries and have published some FAQs. Click here to search the FAQs.

The School is actively working on more information and webinars, in response to your questions and concerns. Please keep reading the School reports, monthly information sheets and check the website.

This continues to be an extremely challenging time for you to be training, both professionally and personally. I acknowledge the stress you are all under and on behalf of the NHS and patients, thank you for persevering and being as adaptive and as resilient as I know you are being. I will say again, that although I know that these are not easy times to be a trainee, you are living through an extraordinary period to be part of the NHS. Even if you cannot quite believe me, or feel that what I am saying doesn’t feel true, keep going because you will achieve your competences and qualifications. Here at the School we will do everything we can to help you to achieve your ambition to become a Clinical Scientist. We are constantly updating what we can provide under your health and wellbeing support. Click here for further information.

The School is well aware of the difficulties that many of you, but not all, have had and are having in trying to access some training. Be assured that we are speaking to professional bodies and universities and will be as flexible and as helpful as possible to address these important issues.

To all you 3rd year STPs who continue to train and are now working to complete. You may be reassured to know that the 2020 high stakes assessment, which had to be devised rapidly in response to the pandemic, was remarkably successful. I have written more on that below. However, I want to let you know that the Education and Assessment team at the School, have already been hard at work to devise a new and improved high stakes assessment for those who will complete in 2021. We will release details of this assessment as soon as possible after it has been approved by HEE, HCPC and your senior scientific colleagues in the NHS. What is clear however, is that this assessment will not be the usual OSFA.

Independent Assessment of Clinical Competence (IAAC)

As we saw, the pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the OSFAs as the final high stakes assessment, for completing 3rd year STPs in 2020. The School has always worked alongside senior national healthcare scientists to provide the STP exit examination and 2020 was no exception.

What the school and scientists had to do

A synoptic, summative exit assessment is an integral element of the STP. A fair and defensible assessment, particularly if high stakes, is one which aligns constructively to received training provision and its learning outcomes. Trainees cannot be assessed on training that has not been provided. It was imperative that the School found a replacement for the final independent assessment, which was usually the face to face OSFA. This was due to the variable disruption to training provision due to public health measures, the availability of our specialists and in some cases trainees too and training engagement due to trainees’ personal circumstances. Additionally, it had to be an assessment that could be developed and delivered at the scheduled time to avoid causing a delay in the pipeline of new entrants to the Healthcare Science workforces i.e. in the space of four months. Following a review of the approach taken by other healthcare professional organisations such as medical specialties, nursing and pharmacists, the School Assessment Team settled on the IACC. The IACC requires trainees to critically reflect on their readiness to practise as a safe and competent Clinical Scientist and meet the challenges that would face them in their new employment. This was on the basis that the only true intelligence of our trainees’ stage of development and readiness to practise, was the individual trainee themselves. In addition, we had to provide the details and quality assurance measures, to ensure a fair and defensible assessment.

What the school and scientists did

Using the new assessment

86% of those taking the IACC in 2020 passed the first time. This percentage of first time passes, compares favourably with the OSFA 2019 outcomes, where 86% of examinees passed first time. It also closely parallels with OSFA results in 2018 where 91% passed first time, and in 2017 it was 84%, in 2016 it was 85% and in 2015 it was 85%.

In addition, there also appears to be a close correlation in the outcomes at specialty level. This indicated to us, that the IACC didn’t appear to skew the outcomes for any particular healthcare science division. This level of correlation was initially surprising, but on deeper consideration it should not have been that unexpected. It confirmed what we already know about the quality of the STP programme from recruitment to completion.

Again, I would like to thank all STP training officers, supervisors, mentors and everyone else in Trusts who not only are supporting STP trainees, but are working flat out in their normal roles. We are doing what we can to provide you with up to date information, and please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of help.

Click here for further information.

HSST Trainees

I would like to start by welcoming the new 2020 cohort. If you missed the HSST induction webinars, welcoming you and providing vital information, click here to view them.

It was great to talk to you all, albeit virtually, and we really look forward to meeting you in person. We truly are delighted and proud that you have chosen to come onto the HSST programme, especially at this time. We wish you the very best of luck and please let us know how we can help in any way.

HSST years 2-5 (6)

What can I say, you are astounding. We know that all of you are working in hugely difficult circumstances, many in high level and responsible positions. It is hardly enough to say ‘well done and thank you’. We are continuing to work closely with MAHSE and HEE to ensure that any alterations to your programme, that arises as a result of the current crisis, are understood and provided for. Again, thanks to all of you HSST trainers during this time. Click here for further information.

News from around the School

Look out for:

Leading Healthcare Innovation Summit – 20th – 22nd October 2020

Global Engineering Day – Wednesday 21st October 2020

A joint Statement extending the eligibility to join HSST was released on 11th September 2020. Click here for further information.

Applications for a new HEE fellowship, to help NHS staff shape the digital healthcare revolution, have been opened. Click here for further information.

All that remains is for me to say look after yourselves, take care and stay in touch with us.

Very best wishes


Last updated on 3rd July 2024

Feature image for Berne’s blog – October 2020