Launching AHPs into Action

NHS England’s Chief Allied Health Professions Officer explains how AHPs Into Action will help shape the future of health care:

In the last year I have been systematically visiting the Vanguard sites across England that are pioneering, exploring and working with new care models.

As a result of the visits, the Vanguard organisations, local commissioning leaders and Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) across England repeatedly asked me for a clear national strategy for AHPs – one that collectively gives direction and support to commissioners, provider organisations and AHP practitioners who are seeking to work differently to deliver the transformation required laid out in the Five Year Forward View and the GP Forward View.

To inform the potential development and, therefore, viability of such a strategy, informed views were sourced including evidencing the need and the key material issues. This was supported in principle by NHS England, Health Education England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England.

I initially hosted an event for the Chief Executives and Chief Officers of the 12 AHP Professional Bodies. This sought to identify whether there was consensus across the disparate professions on collective action that AHPs could take to support the delivery of what will be required in the future care landscape of England.

The event concluded that there was potential for AHPs to co-create a vision of how, with collective action, England will be different if all AHPs were used effectively in the health, social and wider care system.

So, how was ‘AHPs into Action’ developed?

Crowdsourcing was used as a method to capture the voice of AHPs in phase one and then in phase two from a wider group including patients or service users, carers and the public, resulting in over 16,000 contributions.

The benefit of crowdsourcing is, that unlike a physical workshop, it provides a virtual room, in which any number of people can join, through any web-connected device, over a period of days or weeks to ensure a diverse audience has the chance to have its voice heard.

By asking specific questions and then utilising analytics to generate the insights arising from responses, this methodology has been utilised to draft a mandate for change for AHPs that is co-created and therefore co-owned. We understand that this is presently unique in Western Europe for a health policy of this sort.

‘AHPs into Action’ defines how England would be different if AHPs were genuinely used effectively. It describes the:

  • Impact of the effective and efficient use of AHPs for people and populations
  • Commitment to the way services are delivered
  • Priorities to meet the challenges of changing care needs.

The first part of the document identifies the AHPs potential to transform services in health and care based on the identified impacts of the effective and efficient use of AHPs.

Fifty three case studies demonstrate current innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the health, care and wider system.

The second section, presents a framework, guided by the commitments and priorities identified by AHPs across England themselves, for system leaders to enable AHPs to transform care.

The framework poses questions to leaders to challenge and guide thinking when developing new plans and strategies.

Specifically, Boards, leaders of Sustainability and Transformation Planning areas (STPs), Higher Education Institutions and academics are being asked to review their strategies against this framework and to use these questions as a tool to identify best practice and any gaps requiring action.

Suzanne Rastrick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, NHS EnglandSuzanne Rastrick has been NHS England’s Chief Allied Health Professions Officer since September 2014.

Her pivotal role includes taking the lead in developing the vital contribution from the 12 allied health professions (AHPs) to further improve the commissioning and services provided by AHPs to achieve better outcomes for patients after illness and injury.

She works alongside colleagues both within and outside of NHS England, as the senior adviser to the Department of Health on AHP matters, as well as representing England’s health professionals on the international stage.

Suzanne qualified as an Occupational Therapist (OT) from Oxford in 1986 and began her career in the acute hospital sector.

She was one of the first allied health professionals (AHPs) to hold a substantive Director of Nursing post. She has also been Chief Executive of a Primary Care Trust Cluster, and has a Non-Executive portfolio in the commercial and not for profit Housing Sector and sits on a number of national groups.

Since 2013, she has played a prominent role in clinical commissioning, as Interim Chief Executive of NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group during its shadow form, followed by Director of Quality.

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

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One comment

  1. frank lee says:

    this is typical nhs-speak ful of vvague abstra ctions emptyof any c9ncrete examples of the claimed effect of ahp,s. the public want specific examples not generalities. F E Lee