Annual review of progression (ARP) common issues

Guidance on common issues highlighted by the annual review of progression.


Training Officer/ Work-based supervisor engagement

Review meeting frequency

There is no doubt that the HSST programme is challenging to both you and your supervisor. However, this is a doctoral level programme and balancing the pressures of routine clinical commitments with those of academic work whilst still achieving an appropriate work/life balance should neither be unexpected nor underestimated.

We recognise that it can be difficult for busy professionals to schedule frequent meetings. However, the department has given a commitment to this when securing a commission with the local HEE Office.

We recommend that at the outset you and your workplace supervisor should agree a training contract and that a training plan is developed, which recognises and links with the appropriate job plan for you as an individual. The bespoke nature of the programme means that these documents will be unique to each trainee.

The documents should be saved onto OneFile regularly and the training plan should be updated and revised as appropriate over the course of the five years. Reflective documentation can help the trainee and supervisor in the development of the training plan.

It is clear that the frequency of any formal meeting will vary, however the trainee and supervisor should aim to meet monthly though any significant formal modification of the training plan would likely occur much less often.

Workplace supervisor training

We have developed a training course for workplace supervisors. Click this link for details on the Train the Trainer sessions.


It is unusual for trainee positions to be commissioned at sites where there is no appropriate local supervision available. However, in these rare instances it is essential that the trainee seek a mentor of appropriate seniority at another, preferably local, Trust. We would be happy to assist in identifying such individuals if necessary and would take this situation into account before approving any site for accreditation. Mentors are also encouraged for all trainees on the HSST programme, as they can offer an external perspective and offer the trainee support when needed.

Statutory and other leave

We recognise that Statutory Leave (maternity leave, etc.) will impact on the duration of the programme and will make the appropriate adjustments to the trainees’ completion date. At the outset, the programme is usually seen as a full-time commitment. However, where trainees return to the programme after a period of leave on a part-time basis the School and MAHSE will seek to accommodate this as best it can within the restrictions of the programme delivery timetable. Click this link for further guidance on statutory leave.

If you seek extensions and modifications other than as a result of statutory leave, you should review the Exceptional Extenuating Circumstances policy and submit an application for modification to the progression timeline as appropriate.


Department and/or trust issues

Training allowance

Trusts will usually receive the training allowance as a global sum to the organisation’s training department from the HEE Regional Office. Where there are difficulties in identifying the training allowance, support can often be forthcoming from the Lead Scientist at the organisation and/or engagement with the HEE Regional Office.

Balancing training and clinical demand

The demands of this doctoral level training programme should not be underestimated. We have adopted guidance on the roles and responsibilities for both trainee and their employer/supervisor.

It is helpful if training opportunities can develop as a part of the routine clinical role and with increasing responsibilities as you progress through the programme. Workplace supervisors should work with their trainees to facilitate access to appropriate training opportunities. Both should be aware that the programme aims to develop a graduate capable of assuming the additional responsibilities associated with a newly qualified consultant in the specialty.

Accessing training opportunities

The bespoke nature of the programme means that local training opportunities may be limiting and not cover all aspects of the specialist curriculum. In such cases it would be appropriate for you to negotiate a secondment to an appropriate specialist centre.

Visibility of HSST training programme

We promote the HSST programme through the various lead healthcare scientist networks and professional bodies. As trainees have now started to graduate from the programme and enter into consultant level practice, we believe that the HSST programme visibility will increase over the coming years.

Where there is local resistance to accessing appropriate training opportunities by more senior staff the engagement of the Trust Lead Healthcare Scientist can often be helpful.

Job security and future opportunities

The training programme does not guarantee a consultant level position as an automatic right. It does however identify that graduates from the programme are capable of undertaking such a role. The commissioning of these training posts is based on workforce planning and an expectation that such posts may be needed in the future.

Programme issues or concerns

If you perceive a lack of engagement of the workplace supervisor or any other aspect compromising your training, then we would recommend contacting us at the earliest opportunity.


School support

Support and appreciation

We have appointed two clinical scientists as the HSST Training Programme Directors. The programme is complex with varying pathways that can be followed. Trainees who are experiencing difficulties in managing any elements of the programme should contact us as soon as possible for support. Whilst we will do all we can to assist HSST trainees in difficulty there are many elements that fall outside our remit and where we can only seek to influence others.


All issues raised by trainees are logged and referred to the appropriate individual or unit within the School for action.


We strive to communicate effectively with all stakeholders. The School’s website is an important source of information and is updated regularly with relevant news. In addition, a HSST monthly memo is sent to all HSSTs and their supervisors and contains important information about the programme, as well as relevant opportunities.


We are happy to support trainees who contact us with personal issues impacting on their ability to meet the demands of the programme within the limited resources we have available to us. However, as we are not the employer our advice will also recommend that other avenues be sought locally, for example through Occupational Health services.

There are number of resources available in the training support section of our website.


University support

We will pass on those specific comments made as part of the ARP, regarding the delivery of the academic programme to MAHSE.

As HEE contracted MAHSE for the delivery of the postgraduate degree programme we always welcome feedback on any specific issues regarding programme delivery by the HEI’s. We regularly review delivery and accredit the programme meeting contractual requirements.

Trainees should remember that in the first instance there are alternative routes for comments on the academic programme delivery, through the various University structures and nominated trainee representatives.


Workload/time pressures

We recognise the significant issues of time management that the HSST programme brings to trainees and the challenges to employers in facilitating the training against a busy department clinical workload. It is for that reason that we recommend you and your workplace supervisor agree a training contract at the outset of the programme that acknowledges the commitment by both parties to meeting these demands.

We advise that employers facilitate at least an 80:20 split between routine workplace commitments and academic studies excluding the time spent attending residential sessions at the HEI or other time attending conferences or on placement outside the host laboratory.

Specifically we recommend that you should allow flexibility to utilise 52 days each year as a minimum for protected academic study. You’re advised to contact us to discuss difficulties in securing protected time for training, as employers not facilitating this risk losing their accredited status as a training centre.


OneFile/work-based assessments


A range of guidance and resources are available to help you and your supervisor in the use of OneFile. Including a webinar introducing OneFile for HSSTs and their supervisors.

Some Standards may be fulfilled by reference to several pieces of evidence. To manage this effectively in OneFile, you and your supervisor should make use of the resubmission function.

When using this function:

  • you should indicate that you are seeking feedback on the evidence rather than submitting it for full coverage of the Standard
  • the assessor/supervisor should review the evidence, provide feedback and then select the resubmission response, so that you receive feedback on their submission
  • you continue to submit further pieces of evidence for feedback through the resubmission function
  • when deemed by both trainee and assessor/supervisor that sufficient evidence has been submitted and approved to meet the Standard, the assessor/supervisor can then use the tick and sign the function to sign off the whole Standard

Any additional support requests can be submitted to the dedicated help-desk at:

Examples of evidence

The bespoke nature of the programme means that it is difficult to publish specific examples of evidence and/or training plans as these will likely differ significantly amongst individuals.

It is helpful to note that an individual piece of evidence can be mapped to one or several items of the specialist curriculum and/or the Academy’s Higher Specialist.


Standards of Proficiency

The Higher Specialist Scientist Standards are published by the Academy for Healthcare Science.

There have been several comments that trainees struggle to meet all the requirements of the Academy’s standards due to their specialism not being patient facing or the limited scope of their role. However, we believe that all HSST trainees should be able to map evidence to meet all the standards. A less literal interpretation of the standards, should help to achieve this.

Workplace supervisors should be facilitating experiential learning opportunities for those aspects of the curriculum and standards which may not be independently achievable, but would allow the trainee to evidence competence of being able to meet the requirements of the standard once they exit the scheme and as a newly appointed consultant.

We have discussed this further with Academy and the following statement has been agreed:

“Trainees are required to demonstrate their abilities to the HSS Standards of Proficiency in order to meet the exit criteria for completion and gain the Certificate of Completion (CoC). The CoC in turn confers eligibility to entry to the Academy of Healthcare Science HSS Register.

The AHCS indicates that ‘The standards will be contextualised by the role within Healthcare Science that an individual undertakes…’ (as stated on the Academy’s website)

We would advise that the details of each Standard are viewed in broad terms and interpreted to map to your role and that evidence forwarded for each Standard should include comments to justify your interpretation in relation to your role. Your bespoke training is to the level of a newly qualified consultant and sign off by the workplace supervisor against the Standards is recognition of the context you work within and that you are ready to assume this level of practice.”


Completion of the programme

It is the trainees’ responsibility, with support from the department to meet the completion deadlines for the programme. HSST is funded for 5 years (end date) with an additional unfunded 12 month period (completion date) to facilitate completion of all components.  These dates are held by the School and checked with trainees during the ARP process. Trainees must ensure they are aware of these deadlines and work towards completing all components. Any issues or concerns with completion should be raised with the School in good time so support and advice can be offered as needed.

Last updated on 4th July 2023