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The big question: “Should a Specialist Diploma be mandatory for band 6?”

Three professionals discuss whether a Specialist Diploma should be mandatory for band 6.

Eugene Rees

Ex-Operations Manager, Microbiology
Singleton Hospital, Swansea

In my humble opinion – yes. When Agenda for Change was implemented, one of the biggest and perhaps most unexpected consequences was the “extra” experienced biomedical scientist grade 6. From the unions’ standpoint, this was great – looking after their “experienced” members. For managers, however, this was a quandary. What was an experienced biomedical scientist? From my own experience at ground level, it varied; anything from one to three years post-registration, dependant on where you worked. Trainees now tend to do all their training in one discipline and, in theory, someone that attains registration, in a generic portfolio, training in haematology, can be appointed to a band 6 role in another discipline. When shortlisting for band 6 positions, I would always look for relevant experience in the discipline vacant and having the Specialist Diploma was a good marker. A successful Specialist Portfolio is evidence of broad training.

I have performed several microbiology specialist examinations and during pre- examination discussions with the training officer and candidate, I explain to them that the level of knowledge I am looking for is an experienced band 6 person –someone that support workers, trainees and new band 5 staff can go to for advice.

All strong careers need a path with defined, transparent goals – attainment of the Specialist Diploma should be one of the qualifications required for career advancement. Using the it as a mandatory qualification would provide some much-needed standardisation.


Sarah Bruty

Advanced Biomedical Scientist,
Haemostasis, and Training Lead for Laboratory Medicine
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

I don’t actually think there’s a straight answer to this question. It very much depends on the laboratory’s circumstances and, on a national scale, laboratories don’t have the same job descriptions or requirements for banding.

I think that Agenda for Change missed an opportunity in not having uniform job descriptions across the board. You should be able to have slight variation, but the basics and qualifications required should be decided on a national basis – I think that it is very odd that this didn’t happen.

It can cause problems when people move to a job somewhere else, because with their experience and qualifications, they can get a promotion in one place that they can not get in another.

I am strongly in favour of the Specialist Diploma – I think it is an excellent way to evidence specialist training and knowledge, but differing requirements and circumstances mean that it is important that things are not made mandatory. For example, some laboratories have their own systems and sometimes they may find the logistics of completing the Specialist Portfolio hard.

Where I work, there is a real variety. We are able to support people doing the MSc (but I know this is challenging in other locations) and we also do specialist in-house training in our lab.

I think evidencing training is vital and the Specialist Portfolio is one of the best, but should not be mandatory.


Patricia Fernando

Deputy Manager, Dermatopathology
St John’s Institute of Dermatology

Yes – it should be mandatory. As a band six member of staff, if your senior biomedical scientist or manager is out of the lab, then you are the next in line to manage the lab. To do so, you’d either need an MSc or the Specialist Diploma. It’s not just about the theoretical side of things, but also about someone’s ability around decision making. It is also a solid foundation for other qualifications you can go on to do.

“I think that the Specialist Diploma at this level should be mandatory across the board”

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