Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (CAHPO) Awards 2021

Following a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual awards for the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (CAHPO) were launched today (Thursday 20 May 2021).

As outlined in a previous blog by Dr. Anna Lowe, the awards serve several purposes. Firstly, they offer an opportunity to share ideas. Sharing ideas is an important part of the change process, it helps to drive improvement in patient care and outcomes by increasing adoption and spread.

Secondly, they help to raise the profile of Allied Health Professions (AHPs) and the contribution that they make to patient care. The last year has shown how AHPs have stepped up and their skills have been critical to supporting the pandemic effort.

Finally, the awards offer a great opportunity to shout about the work you’ve been doing and to inspire others. Of course, these awards would not be possible without our partners and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their continued support.

The focus of this blog is to share the changes to the awards application process, which have been introduced with the explicit intention of enabling greater inclusivity. In August 2020, I set out my commitment and that of the whole CAHPO team to increase diversity in the AHP workforce. Building on our equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) commitment, the CAHPO awards working group have been working to consider and ensure the application process is inclusive to all Allied Health Professionals.

Firstly, we have changed the way you can apply for the award. You can still provide a traditional written entry, but there is now an option to submit a three-minute recorded PowerPoint presentation if you would prefer. The format of this is outlined in the submission pack. This approach originates from the concept of inclusive assessment within Higher Education. Inclusive assessment considers individual learning styles, strengths, time constraints and personal or employment commitments. Our aim is to offer choice in how you can submit your application. Although the idea originated from how we support engagement from our neurodivergent community, the option is open to anyone submitting an application.

The second change is the collection of demographic data. The awards team needs to understand who is applying i.e. which professions, ethnic groups, grades etc. Of course, as with any continuous improvement project, collecting data is not the end, but rather an opportunity to gather baseline data to help us better understand any gaps in representation, and how we can further develop the inclusivity of the awards. In doing so we can consider what infrastructure the CAHPO awards team can put in place for future awards. As a further focus on inclusivity, the awards team have carefully considered what questions we need to include in this section and the wording chosen.

The awards team are also asking the AHP community to consider who they are nominating within their professional circles. Do your nominations reflect the full range of people whom you work with and alongside? Perhaps a group of team members can come together and consider all individuals in a team prior to nominating.  There is a wide range of categories to choose from. Don’t forget you can use nominations to recognise the particular efforts of people who you know have had to fight harder to get to the same place.  Can you reach out and support someone with their nomination?

The awards ceremony will take place virtually on national AHPs Day (14 of October 2021). Good luck with your submissions!

Suzanne Rastrick

Suzanne qualified as an Occupational Therapist from Oxford. Suzanne was the first Allied Health Professional (AHP) to hold a substantive Director of Nursing post in both provider and commissioning organisations. She became the Chief Executive of a Primary Care Trust, where a particular highlight was having leadership responsibility for delivering health resilience and health ‘blue light’ services during the Olympic sailing events held in Dorset in 2012. She subsequently gained authorisation for a large Clinical Commissioning Group, before moving to her current post with NHS England. She was appointed as Chief Allied Health Professions Officer for England in September 2014.

In 2017 Suzanne launched the first AHP strategy for England which has been recognised as ground-breaking in policy development from its use of crowdsourcing. Building on this, Suzanne published the second AHP strategy – ‘AHPs Deliver’ in June 2022. This iteration had a greater emphasis on patient, public voice and specifically the inclusion of those who may be digitally excluded along with communities who may find it difficult to connect with traditional consultation methods. The result is a national strategy crowdsourced from diverse populations for people and communities AHPs serve.

For over three decades, Suzanne has held non-executive portfolios outside of the NHS, including audit committee chair roles, predominantly in the housing and charitable sector. Suzanne was recognised as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours list 2019. In 2023 Suzanne was awarded a Visiting Professor role at St George’s, University of London and at Oxford Brookes University.

Follow Suzanne on Twitter/X @SuzanneRastrick or Instagram @chief_ahp_officer_england