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Explained: What are AHPs and why do they matter to the NHS?

Explained: What are AHPs and why do they matter to the NHS?
By Léa Legraien Reporter
21 June 2018

Allied Healthcare Professions (AHPs), who work in partnership with NHS trusts in the country, have been hailed by NHS England and NHS Improvement as being key to transforming people’s health, care and wellbeing.

With mounting pressures in the health services, more complex long-term conditions and an ageing and growing population, it seems natural for AHPs to be better utilised.

Here is a quick view on how trust boards can integrate them better.

AHPs: Who are they?

According to NHS England, AHPs – or therapies – have a ‘significant role to play in the future delivery of integrated urgent care within the NHS.’

AHPs are the third largest workforce in the NHS. Among the 14 degree-level allied health professions recognised by NHS England, 13 are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

They provide system-wide care to assess, treat, diagnose and discharge patients across social care, housing, education, and independent and voluntary sectors.

The 14 AHPs include:

  • Art therapists
  • Drama therapists
  • Music therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech and language therapists
  • Chiropodists/podiatrists
  • Dietitians
  • Operating department practitioners
  • Orthoptists
  • Osteopaths
  • Paramedics
  • Physiotherapists
  • Prosthetists and orthotists
  • Radiographers

Although each role varies – from using art as a form of psychotherapy to providing gait analysis and working as part of amputee rehabilitation teams – all AHPs use holistic approaches to tackle healthcare issues.

By helping patients throughout their life, the workforce’s goals is to maximise individuals’ potential to live their life to the fullest, in an active and independent way.

Why does the NHS need AHPs?

APHs have the potential to improve the healthcare patients receive and reduce pressure on the system, as their skillset and reach across people’s lives and organisations make them ‘ideally placed to lead and support transformative change’, according to NHS England.

In a recent NHS Improvement study, ‘Leadership of Allied Health Professions in Trusts: What Exists and What Matters’ the organisation found that senior AHP leaders ‘offer skills that add value and strengthen the overall trust leadership capability’.

NHS Improvement executive director of nursing Ruth May says: ‘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.’

How can trusts strengthen leadership arrangement with AHPs?

According to NHS Improvement, trusts looking to strengthen leadership arrangement with AHPs should:

– Appoint a senior AHP with a strategic focus. This move could help unlock the AHPs’ potential within the trust

– Consider constructing the AHP’s portfolio to align their skills with the trusts’ priorities

– Allow a certain proximity between the AHP and the board

– Identify the AHP’s transformative potential

– Implement new care pathways to improve quality and productivity

– Build the AHP’s competence and capability to realise the benefits

– Demonstrate the AHP’s value by communicating with them to deliver the trust priorities according to the triple aim of better care for individuals, better health for the population and lower cost through improvement

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