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Here to help: Looking at topping up

Alan Wainwright, the IBMS Executive Head of Education, with some advice to graduates and employers on topping up non-accredited degrees for registration.

As upholder of professional standards of knowledge and training in biomedical science, the IBMS often hears criticism about non-accredited universities failing to inform their students about the extent of the competencies required to start their careers in laboratory medicine.

Any university with a biomedical science degree can apply for IBMS accreditation. We review their course syllabus and materials and assess if they meet the HCPC’s academic criteria for registration as a biomedical scientist. If they fail to meet those criteria (or they choose not to apply) we are unable to stop them from using the term “biomedical science” in their course title.

When this occurs, it puts us in a difficult situation. However, we acknowledge that it means that we have more work to do to inform 16–18-year-olds that, if they want a career in laboratory medicine, the best route is to complete an IBMS-accredited degree.

With your help, we want to achieve more outreach and need members to step forward at local college or sixth form career days to share their passion for the biomedical science profession.

With the introduction of our new website next year we will also be looking to make the information clearer and easier to find, outlining the steps required to become an HCPC-registered biomedical scientist, signposting all degrees that are accredited and increasing visibility of our resources to support graduates into biomedical science careers.

We are often asked if we can make it easier for the students who need to take top-up modules to meet the HCPC’s academic criteria as a biomedical scientist. In response, we will be approaching education providers to discuss the availability of an online top-up module in the key biomedical science disciplines, making it easier for students to complete, in their own time rather than having to attend lectures.

We are also discussing with HEE about a one-off fund to help financially support anyone who is currently prevented from taking the necessary additional top-up modules due to a lack of personal and/or departmental training funds. It is anticipated that this help could be available in the new financial year. As soon as we have more information, we will provide further updates on both of these initiatives.

Some members ask us why the top-ups are necessary in the first place. They have MLAs who are highly competent in their specialism and deserve promotion. Unfortunately, academic requirements are not set by the IBMS – and all HCPC-registered biomedical scientists must be academically knowledgeable, practically trained and ready to practise across the full range of specialisms. This is why we are working so hard to get more co-terminus degrees in place across the UK.

In a highly regulated profession, we have to do everything we can to make our entry routes as understandable and accessible as possible – but we have to do this while also maintaining the high standards that protect our patients.  

Image credit | Alamy

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