2016 will bring fresh challenges for Allied Health Professionals

NHS England’s Chief Allied Health Professions Officer reflects on 2015 and looks ahead to the New Year:

Christmas and New Year is a time when many of us are able to relax with family and friends, forget about the pressures of work for a few days at least and generally enjoy ourselves.

But for the very many Allied Health Professionals – frontline paramedics, radiographers and therapy teams keeping people safe in their own homes in particular – this is a period when, if anything, they are working harder than ever and many won’t really have any sort of festive break at all over the next couple of weeks.

The year comes to end as it seems to have run throughout – at a hectic pace. And we end 2015 with some positive news on the AHP Medicines Project.

The Commission on Human Medicines has supported the proposals to introduce independent prescribing by therapeutic radiographers, supplementary prescribing by dietitians and the use of exemptions by orthoptists.

A submission to ministers outlining the recommendations will be made in 2016 after which we will await a ministerial decision regarding changes to legislation for these professions.

The New Year will also bring further work in relation to the proposals to introduce independent prescribing by diagnostic radiographers and paramedics.

A lot of hard work has been involved in this project, not least of all from colleagues in other professional bodies including the British Dietetic Association, the British & Irish Orthoptic Society, the Society and College of Radiographers, and the College of Paramedics.

I expect further progress to be made on this project in 2016, where the focus will continue to be on providing more timely access to medicines for patients to optimise their outcomes – the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

I also remain very positive about the work going on to support Lord Carter Coles’ workforce efficiency programme, where an Allied Health Professional has also been appointed to the project team.

The role of AHPs will be further boosted in 2016 with the expected publication later next year of the National Guidance for CCGs on Rehabilitation.

This document will support CCGs to consider rehabilitation as offering solutions to their priority areas. It will help avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and help people to maintain independence at home – and importantly, get them ready to return to work as quickly as possible.

We also end the year on a high note with an increased number of AHP leadership roles – with an AHP Clinical Fellow appointed to work with me in both NHS England and Health Education England; plus three AHP Clinical Associates being appointed to the New Models of Care programme and a fixed term post to support development of AHP Informatics.

AHPs will play a huge role in the vanguards programme, which brings me back to something both I and Simon Stevens said at my conference back in the summer: “It’s not all just about doctors and nurses.”

While I’m talking about conferences, a heads up  to look out for NHS England’s National AHP conference, which will take place at the Business Design Centre in London in June 2016.

I want to end by sending a message of support to all the AHPs in Cumbria, which I will be visiting in July 2016, who are continuing to work and provide marvellous services despite the massive problems caused by the recent floods and devastation to many, many homes and people lives.

And to all of those dedicated AHP staff throughout the country who will be forgoing turkey dinner, Christmas crackers, drinks and fun at home to do what they do best, serving the public, I want to wish a very special Merry Christmas and to thanks them for their dedication and ongoing hard work.

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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