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The big question: Better recognition

This month, we ask: “How can biomedical scientists get better recognition for what they contribute to healthcare?”

Nigel Coles

Pathology Quality Manager

Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust

All healthcare organisations are set up in such a way that it puts people in groups – groups that have the same, or similar, tasks and functions, for example pathology, clinical biochemistry, automation section and so on. That is not so surprising as healthcare is extraordinarily complex; it relies on 1.5m human beings trying to help 60m other human beings. Each of these wants to have a home, as Maslow has been telling us for nearly 80 years. We have safety and security in our groups and for that to happen we want order and predictability, which reinforces silo working.

As a biomedical science workforce, we must recognise ourselves first and the huge contribution we make to people’s lives by recognising our unique skills. Once we recognise that in ourselves, we can move out of silo and help, support, lead and challenge other areas of healthcare by interacting, engaging and integrating with other silos. In today’s connective world, silo working does not have to be the problem it once was. Every day there are numerous opportunities to collaborate with other clinical groups and professions, but you do need confidence to do it. Take those opportunities – the benefits are massive, both personally and for your profession. The skills you have are unique, use them – they are skills other groups are looking for. As you voice your opinion, recognition will develop, providing you state clearly “I am a biomedical scientist”. But if we stay in our silos, recognition for biomedical scientists remains in the other people’s hands.


Dr Chris Moore

Programme Leader BSc Biomedical Science

UWE Bristol

This is a tough one because there are different levels of recognition that I believe biomedical scientists deserve. On one hand, we have those students who undertake a biomedical science degree at a university that is accredited by the IBMS – that is a badge of honour that is not recognised enough, and it isn’t valued enough that they studied somewhere that has the profession in mind, especially when any university can call a cluster of human health-related modules “biomedical science”, but without the rigours and competencies that the IBMS and the NHS needs in its staff.

Then there are those who are already in the role and spend a great deal of their careers at the same banding as a graduate nurse or physiotherapist and are seen by the end users, the patients and the public, as generic lab technicians, rather than the (often) discipline specialists that they really are. The career progression, specialisation and clinical involvement of biomedical scientists feels like it is still in its infancy, when it could provide so many benefits to diagnostics and health management if there were closer relationships with the clinical personnel.

For simple recognition from a practical perspective though, it wouldn’t hurt trusts to consider not sticking the pathology labs in basements or separate buildings when designing hospitals though – patients and visitors should be able to see this remarkable step in the diagnostic process as easily as the nurse by the bedside or the radiographer in the booth.


Allan Wilson

Lead Biomedical Scientist in Cellular Pathology

Monklands Hospital

The pandemic and focus on laboratory testing and biomedical scientists has undoubtedly raised the profile of laboratory medicine and the vital role that laboratories play in delivery of healthcare. However, it is not clear if this has led to a wider recognition of the vital contribution that biomedical scientists contribute to healthcare.

A logical second question is who do we want this recognition to come from?

From my interactions with the media during the pandemic, I think there are four groups that we should be targeting: the media, the public, politicians and other healthcare professionals.

I would argue that we have made inroads with the media and politicians and we are now in regular contact with a range of media groups and have seats at a range of political tables. The public is a harder nut to crack, but not impossible – we need to be more vocal about what we do in every aspect of our life – too often we describe what we do as “I work in a lab”.

There is a lack of knowledge among most of our healthcare colleagues of what we do. If those groups we work closely with do not understand or recognise what we do, what chance is there for the general public? Again, I would argue for advocacy and stepping outside the lab to engage with every possible clinical group with which we can legitimately engage.

So, I offer you a challenge – be an advocate, step outside the lab door and shout loudly about what we do and what more we have to offer.


Image credit |Ikon


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