Message from your HSST Training Programme Director
Dr Lisa Ayers
Welcome to the March HSST monthly memo. We hope it finds you well. During Healthcare Science week it was great to see some of the wonderful activities taking place to promote the role of Healthcare Scientists in the NHS. Myself and Owen were fortunate this month to attend the face-to face workshops for section B modules in Manchester. It was great to see so many of you in person for the first time and to hear more about your experiences.
As many of the first HSST cohorts are now reaching completion of the programme we have included an article in this memo about HSST completion including the timelines, final assessments, processes and some clarification on the terminology. Whatever stage you are at in your training please have a read as it may help to inform your training plan and prepare you for the important milestones of the programme.
Information for trainees
Being a Consultant Scientist is challenging. The professional, scientific, clinical and leadership responsibilities for the running and development of NHS scientific services are considerable, yet rewarding, and the HSST programme reflects this.
One of the questions often asked about HSST is: why is this programme time bound, shouldn’t Consultant Scientists be ready when they are ready? This is a fair question. However there are several reasons why this programme has a time limit and a completion deadline:
- For the trainee – prior to HSST, scientists were able to progress to Consultant Scientist level by voluntarily undertaking a series of qualifications, training and experiences often in their own time and using their own funds. This may have taken them 5, 10, or even 20 years to achieve. By having a structure, defined deadlines, funding and protected time within HSST it allows the trainees to reach this point quickly and in addition supports the procrastinators among us who need a deadline to work towards.
- For the department – most departments submit an Expression of Interest for HSST based on a need for a Consultant Scientist in 5 years time. Workplaces hosting HSSTs have to commit to 5 years of support for the trainee with protected time, training opportunities and university attendance. Very few departments would be able to commit to hosting an open-ended programme and would not engage with the programme. The funding provided over the 5 years supports the department to support the trainee.
- For the workforce – many science specialisms have highlighted a significant workforce need at Consultant Scientist level. HSST is funded through HEE based on that workforce need for Consultants in the specialty, with an anticipation that individuals will be completing HSST and moving into Consultant roles within 5 years.
At the School we appreciate that for the initial HSST cohorts there has been some confusion over the deadlines for HSST completion and also in some of the terminology used to describe deadlines. Below we have provided clear definitions for these dates:
HSST end date – this is the date when the HSST HEE funding ends, at the end of the 5 years for trainees with no extensions, interruptions or step offs. It is expected that by this date HSSTs will have submitted their thesis (if doing DClinSci), had at least the first attempt of their final professional exam (FRCPath Part 2 or IAPS) and completed all workplace evidence on OneFile.
HSST completion deadline – this is 12 months after the HSST end date. By this deadline all evidence required for completion must be submitted to the NSHCS in order to receive the HSST completion certificate. The HSST completion form must be filled in and supporting evidence attached. This evidence includes certificates for the academic qualification (DClinSci or PgDip plus letter confirming Innovation Proposal and Lay Presentation), professional qualification (FRCPath/IAPSs/CEng) and completed OneFile Sign off.
12-month unfunded window – 12 months between HSST end date and HSST completion deadline. The intention of this 12 months is to allow for processes following thesis submission, including viva, corrections, resubmission and ultimate approval of the DClinSci award. This 12-month window will also allow for re-sits of the final professional exam (IAPS or RCPath) if the first attempt is not successful. Please take into account that the IAPS runs twice per year (May and November). However, some RCPath Part 2 exams are only offered once per year.
HSST exit – this refers to HSSTs leaving the programme prior to completion of all elements. This can be for a variety of reasons. These trainees are invited to participate in an HSST exit interview, so that reasons for exit can be monitored and reviewed.
HSST completion - changes to the HSST end date
Does this mean that all HSSTs end date are exactly 5 years post commencing the course? No, a lot can happen over the course of 5 years and there are a variety of reasons why the HSST end date may be adjusted:
- Statutory leave – any statutory leave results in a pause in the programme and the HSST end is adjusted by the number of months taken. Please inform the NSHCS as soon as possible of these dates. This pause in programme is just for the time period whilst the trainee is on statutory leave. If you wish to pause for longer it would be considered a step-off (please see below).
- Less than full-time working – for those working less than full-time hours, the 5-years and funding can be distributed pro-rata. As the programme is full time at the point of entry, the NSHCS needs to approve these arrangements and work with you to calculate the HSST end date. We can also advise on any impact on training plans or assessments as required so please get in touch if you are seeking to reduce your hours. Generally trainees on the programme will need to be working a minimum of 0.6WTE or 22.5 hours per week and must agree the flexible working arrangements with their employer in line with local employment policies.
- Extensions – additional programme time may be given due to exceptional extenuating circumstances, where there has been a continuation of training activity. This is applied for through EEC process. Click here to view the EEC process.
- Step offs/deferrals – a pause of the programme may be granted due to exceptional extenuating circumstances which precludes an individual’s engagement with training e.g. service pressures/reconfiguration or prolonged ill health. No additional funding is received during the period of absence from the programme and no direct training activity including academic work should be undertaken. This is applied for through EEC process. Click here to view the EEC process.
- COVID interruptions – a pause of the programme due to the impact of COVID-19. No additional funding is received during this period and no direct training activity including academic work should be undertaken whilst on an interruption. This is applied for through COVID interruption OneFile form. Applications should be made at the time of the impact on training or as close to as possible.
If you think you may qualify for a change to your end date due to one of the reasons above, but you have not contacted the NSHCS to let us know please do so as soon as possible. Retrospective requests for extensions will be considered. However it is much easier to justify and evidence these requests closer to the time. It is not possible to reach the end of the programme and then apply for circumstances that occurred years before.
The processes described above allow for a great deal of flexibility in the HSST programme. The result of this is that many HSSTs will not have the same HSST end date as the rest of their cohort. In fact, your HSST end date should be considered individual to you and it is essential that you know and plan for your own HSST end date and your HSST completion deadline.
End dates and completion deadlines are now identified as part of the Annual Review of Progression (ARP) that all trainees participate in between years 2 – 4 and at the beginning of year 5. You should check the dates identified each time you complete your ARP return to determine if they meet your expectations and if not contact the School to clarify any differences/discrepancies.
If you are reading this article and are thinking you are unsure of your HSST end date, please contact the NSHCS as soon as possible to determine this date as it will impact on your training plan and when you sit your final assessments.
HSST completion - timing of final assessment for HSST
Physiological, Physical and Bioinformatics HSSTs
- The final assessment is the Independent Assessment of Professional Skills (IAPS)
- To apply to sit the IAPS you will need to have completed and signed off evidence for all of Standards of Proficiency on OneFile and complete the HSST IAPS showcase module in OneFile
- The assessment is held in May (showcase deadline February) and November (showcase deadline August)
- You are entitled to two re-sits of the IAPS, as long as those re-sits fall before your completion deadline
- To allow for re-sits before your completion deadline you should take your first sitting of IAPS in the May before your HSST end date and complete the HSST IAPS showcase module in OneFile by February before your HSST end date.
- If you have an adjusted HSST end date you should be planning to take your first sitting of IAPS prior to your adjusted HSST end date.
Life Science HSSTs
- The final is assessment is the RCPath Part 2 examinations
- To apply to sit the Part 2 you must have passed the Part 1 examination for your specialism
- The RCPath exams run in Spring and Autumn. However not all specialisms run Part 1 and Part 2 examination twice per year. The current examination schedule for 2022 is in Appendix 1. Please be aware that the schedule does vary from year to year, as do the application deadlines so please keep up to date with the RCPath website.
- You are entitled to three re-sits of the Part 2 examinations
- In order to allow for re-sits you should plan to take the Part 2 examinations as soon as you are ready and at least the first attempt before your HSST end date.
HSST completion - issues with achieving your completion deadlines?
It is important to take responsibility for understanding the completion requirements of the programme and plan proactively to achieve the deadlines set. This should include regular reviews with your supervisor, ongoing and regular communication with the programme leads in the University and engaging with the Annual Review of Progression processes (ARP) managed by the School.
We appreciate that issues can arise and things will change for you over a 5-year period. The School will always seek to support trainees and will communicate regularly in relation to completion deadlines via ARP or other means. It is important that you review and take note of these communications to check that you are still on target and to raise issues early if you feel that your completion deadline is not achievable. Our advice is to plan, review, be aware of the requirements and let us know of any concerns early so they can be addressed and resolved to support you to complete the programme successfully.
HSST completion - how do I get my HSST completion certificate?
Once you have passed your final assessment, completed all of the HSST elements and received your academic qualification certificate, you can apply to complete the HSST programme. This is done via the HSST completion form on OneFile. Please complete this form and attach any relevant evidence.
You will receive a huge congratulations from us and your HSST completion certificate which can be used to join the HSS Register with the AHCS.
HSST completion - support from the School
If all of this information has raised questions regarding your own completion of HSST, please get in contact with the NSHCS as soon as possible with these questions. We appreciate that the bespoke nature of this programme can be complicated to manage and we are very happy to work with you to help you achieve HSST completion.
Information for supervisors
Train the Trainer events
Are you interested in attending a series of Train the Trainer events?
If you have recently added your details to our waiting list there is no need for you to register. Everyone from the waiting list will be invited to one of the sessions taking place during May 2022.
Employers expressing an interest in taking HSST trainees
The HSST is a 5 year funded programme with an additional 12 months unfunded period to allow for completion of all programme requirements such as the academic dissertation or professional examinations. The commitment for employers taking a trainee is therefore up to 6 years in total.
Employers must also be willing to support trainees where breaks in training are required and which may result in extended training time e.g statutory leave, ill health, disruptions due to service pressures, COVID-19 etc and so should provide a training contract which will provide some flexibility to enable trainees to complete the programme successfully within an extended time period.
Any additional time on programme beyond 6 years may require an application via the National School of Healthcare Science Exceptional Extenuating Circumstances (EEC) process and trainees/departments should liaise with the School in good time to discuss their circumstances where this is applicable.
Missed a previous edition of the HSST Monthly Memo?
We’ve published copies of the Monthly Memo for HSST trainees and supervisors on our website.