Allied Health Professions hold key role in future NHS

The Allied Health Professions (AHPs) have a significant role to play in the future delivery of integrated urgent care within the NHS.

And the quality of leadership of the AHPs will be vital in determining their impact and the quality of care that patients receive.

These are two of the key findings of a study ‘Leadership of Allied Health Professions in Trusts: what exists and what matters’ commissioned by NHS Improvement and compiled by Kingston University.

The report and the conclusions of the study are being unveiled at the fourth Chief Allied Health Professions Officer’s annual conference being staged in London today with NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens among several high profile speakers addressing around 500 delegates.

Suzanne Rastrick, the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, said: “This study throws down the gauntlet to us all and sets out the challenges for both the AHPs and NHS trusts for the future. But, with the growing significance of the AHPs within the NHS, I know these are challenges we can meet as we go forward.

“As the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday in July, this is an ideal time for AHPs to reflect on how they and their contribution to the health and care system have changed and can develop in the future.”

Ruth May, Executive Director of Nursing at NHS Improvement, explained how the study highlights the variability within trusts regarding AHP leadership, and the opportunities for senior AHPs to develop as leaders.

She said that by starting the leadership self-assessment contained in the report, Directors of Nursing can work with their AHP leads to develop leadership arrangements that reflect their organisational and system needs and that encourage greater board engagement with the AHP professional offer.

She added: “AHP leadership is vital in shaping patient care and future health systems. Leadership matters and AHPs have the skills and the scope to transform care across systems, notably in areas such as patient flow, urgent and emergency care and length of stay. However, if we are to maximise their collective potential for quality improvement, we need to ensure that leadership arrangements within trusts are fit for purpose and reflect the value they bring.”

Other key messages from the NHS Improvement study include:

  • NHS Trusts should strengthen their leadership arrangements for AHPs, to improve consistency across England and empower senior AHPs to contribute more to clinical strategy, including areas such as systems transformation.
  • AHPs have significant transformative potential within health, care and the wider system, particularly as we navigate the opportunities of Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and adapt to the challenges of an ageing and more complex patient population.
  • The opportunity is there for trusts to look at how they can optimise and maximise the value that AHPs can bring to their organisations and systems working, particularly at a leadership level. And to look at the correlation between leadership and improvement when considering their AHP leadership arrangements.

Fittingly, the theme of this year’s AHP conference is ‘The Future Now’ and key topics are innovations in digital, leadership and integration.  As well as Simon Stevens, other key note speakers have been invited to inspire and encourage AHPs to continue to be innovative and lead the way.

Dr Jo Fillingham, Clinical Director Allied Health Professions and Deputy Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (NHSI) is hosting two breakout sessions on AHP leadership in integrated care.

This will include an on-the-ground view of how AHPs are driving change at local level and helping to deliver ICS ambitions in Frimley Health & Care Partnership with ICS Clinical Lead, Dr Andy Brooks and Integrated Care Manager and Occupational Therapist, Emma Chamberlain; and a talk from Clinical Lead Rhian Monteith about the impact AHP leadership and the Rotating Paramedic Pilot Scheme is having on A&E attendance, workforce and patient care.

Reflecting the increasing interest in AHPs, attendance at the conference has grown from around 250 delegates in 2015, to around 550 plus 19 high profile exhibitors at this year’s event.

Organisers will also be recording short video interviews with key speakers and these will be posted in due course.