Healthcare science week 2023: 13th – 19th March
Healthcare Science Week is an annual week-long programme designed to promote the amazing work of healthcare science professionals and highlight the difference they make to patients’ lives. This week we will be celebrating by shining a light on all the careers in healthcare science. For more information about the departments and the important role they play in patient care, please see below.
Department of Clinical Technology (DCT)
What’s our role?
The Department of Clinical Technology provides specialist wide-ranging technical services across the healthcare community in Cornwall; this includes (but is not limited to) The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust and Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust. The service provides whole-life management of medical equipment from pre-purchase assessment through safety and maintenance issues to end-of-life disposal. Fully integrated into DCT, a Medical Equipment Library provides a comprehensive and efficient loan equipment service for the RCHT.
Our staff work hand-in-hand with the clinical services every step of the way with regards to the application and exploitation of available technologies, including the identification of equipment to meet need, trials and evaluation, equipment roll-out, planned and reactive servicing, upgrades and future replacement. Where equipment is supported by a 3rd party, DCT will monitor the compliance of such contracted support.
Who are our people?
DCT has 24 technical staff of varying backgrounds, qualifications and specialisms, with enormous collective experience and expertise. DCT has embraced a greater diversity of backgrounds than would be the case in many typical Trusts, and is a firm believer of casting the net as widely as possible into the talent pool of technical expertise.
We have numerous staff who developed their engineering skills on technologies as wide-ranging as military aircraft, yacht building, radar systems and food production lines, all of whom have been able to successfully re-apply their skills through re-training and mentorship – into healthcare technology. We strongly encourage professional development and are currently running numerous technical apprenticeship programmes at Levels 3, 4 and 5.
DCT also has a team of dedicated support staff for business and contract administration, equipment pick-up and delivery, front-of-house operations and technical stores and logistics.
What equipment do we deal with?
The array of equipment types that we deal with is so large that our workshops are broken down into functionally-based teams, who each look after associated technologies:
- Monitoring – largely (but not exclusively) look after such things as patient monitoring.
- Treatment – largely (but not exclusively) look after such things as infusion pumps, syringe drivers and renal equipment.
- Engineering – largely (but not exclusively) mechanical and look after motive systems such as trollies, treatment couches and beds, but also some dental and UV-therapy technology.
- Critical Care – looks after very high-risk technologies such as anaesthetics and ventilation.
What about our response to the pandemic?
The pandemic has been a major challenge to the entire healthcare sector, and DCT has proactively adjusted and reprioritised in order to meet the ever-changing clinical need as the Trust has responded to Covid. It has played a pivotal role in the procurement and commissioning of over 5,000 additional medical devices.
The blood sciences laboratory at RCHT is staffed by a mix of laboratory assistants, assistant practitioners and Biomedical Scientists providing a 24/7 service every day of the year. The laboratory performs a wide range of tests on blood, urine, faecal samples, cerebrospinal fluid, and other bodily fluid samples to provide information that contributes towards the diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, and prognosis of patients’ conditions. 70% of diagnoses within the hospital involve some form of Pathology testing. Tests are performed using a mixture of complex analysers, manual tests and microscopy, all of which requires intense training. Qualified Biomedical Scientists review all results and determine if further testing is required, often liasing with the clinical team.
In addition, the Blood Sciences laboratory is the main storage location for donor blood, which may be needed for transfusions in events such as accidents, post surgery and treatment of cancer patients, covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The Blood Sciences team is a very dedicated and hard-working one, and always aims to offer the best service it can provide.
As Vascular Scientists the majority of our work involves doing ultrasound scans of arteries and veins in the body. This contributes to the diagnosis and management of many conditions including stroke or mini-stroke, peripheral arterial disease, deep vein thrombosis, and venous incompetence to name just a few. Our scans help determine which patients may be suitable for surgery, as well as other methods of treatment.
You may have heard the terms “Doppler” or “Duplex” used when referring to our scans. In many of our investigations we measure the speed of the blood in the body, and this is possible due to a phenomenon called the Doppler effect. An example of this is when the siren of an ambulance or fire engine changes pitch as it travels away from you. The name “Doppler” can also be used for when the pulses are listened to, usually in the feet, as well as when blood pressure cuffs are placed around the arms and ankles of a patient to detect possible arterial narrowings or blockages.
Below is an image taken from one of our scans. The red area demonstrates blood flow in a superficial femoral artery, and the waveform below this tells us more information about the blood flow throughout the whole leg.
What is Pathology?
There are 19 different specialities under the umbrella of Pathology, including:
- Clinical biochemistry
- Medical microbiology
- Transfusion medicine
- Point of Care Testing (POCT)
- SAMBA Laboratory
- And many more…
Did you know…
- Around 95% of clinical pathways rely on patients having access to pathology services.
- 14 tests for each person in England and Wales are performed annually.
- 300,000 tests are performed every working day, that’s around 1 billion tests per year
- These tests cost around £2.2 billion a year
Our staff are amazing, all the time, across many staff groups:
- Medical laboratory support workers
- Medical laboratory assistants
- Secretarial and administrative
- Associate practitioners
- Anatomical pathology technicians
- Biomedical scientists
- Clinical scientists
- Clinical fellows
- Consultant pathologists
Pathology has also been involved in looking after the environment. Historically, Pathology has employed a single containment system for submitted bloods from primary care by use of plastic bags. Over the course of a year almost 780,000 specimen bags are sent to the Blood Sciences laboratories which is more than enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool!
The radiotherapy physics team is a multi-disciplinary organisation consisting of clinical scientists, treatment planners, and engineers. The team works closely with clinical and support staff to ensure the best outcomes for patients, and the continued development and progression of radiotherapy treatment. They are responsible for various activities within RCHT and the Sunrise Centre, including:
- Providing scientific and technical support to the Radiotherapy Department.
- Maintaining and servicing all Radiotherapy equipment, to ensure accurate and consistent treatment delivery.
- Planning individual radiotherapy treatment for some 2,000 patients each year.
- Providing specialised IT support across Radiotherapy and Oncology.
- Taking part in national and international clinical trials.
- Collaborating with other Cancer Centres in the South West Peninsula to provide support and share expert knowledge.
The radiotherapy department in the Sunrise Centre is modern, containing various pieces of state-of-the-art equipment for treatment delivery, planning, and patient management. As mentioned above, the radiotherapy physics team are responsible for these:
- Two Varian TrueBeam Linear Accelerators with 6-degrees-of-freedom couches for accurate patient positioning.
- One Xstrahl superficial therapy machine.
- One Philips wide-bore CT scanner.
- Pinnacle v16 Treatment Planning System.
- Aria Oncology Information System for the management of information and images of cancer patients at RCHT.
Introduction to the Scientist Training Programme
What is the STP?
The NHS scientist training program (STP) is a program that aims to produce graduates who will possess the essential knowledge, skills, experience, and attributes required of a newly qualified and registered clinical scientist. By the end of the training the trainee should be competent to undertake complex scientific and clinical roles, defining and choosing investigative options, making key judgements about complex facts and clinical situations within a quality assurance framework.
The program aims to achieve this by part academic study (for an MSc) and part work-based training learning and training.
The structure of the Scientist Training Programme
M.Sc. in Clinical Science:
- a part-time, fully funded, master’s degree
- academic teaching and assessment
- practical training and assessment
- contract of employment
Page last reviewed: 31 March 2023