Healthcare Science Week | Supported by regional networks

Published 15/03/2024

For Healthcare Science Week, Ms Stacy Cooper, Chief Cardiac Physiologist, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, NHS England Echo Education Lead for the North East and Yorkshire and Vice Chair of the Regional Representatives Network of the British Society of Echocardiography (BSE), shares her experience of the impact of good regional support.

Healthcare sciences are an integral part of the NHS, providing timely and critical diagnosis and management of a range of disease processes. In the last few years, the importance of these services has become increasingly apparent as they have been placed under pressure due to rising waiting lists, an aging population and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both the NHS and the BSE recognised that echocardiography services across the country were operating under a significant workforce shortfall, which led to the establishment of the Echocardiography Training Programme (ETP) by the National School of Healthcare Science in 2020. This is an ambitious programme aimed at delivering rapid but high-quality echocardiography training to address the workforce shortage.

In order to maximise the success of the programme a team of practice educators were recruited across the country to support these trainees. In the orkshire, the practice educators (myself and Jane Mackay) were tasked to identify how training capacity could be increased within the region.

It has been essential as part of this role to have access to a strong network of colleagues who can share experiences and best practice. Being part of the BSE’s Regional Representatives network meant that I was able to better understand the pressures faced across our services and identify how training was being delivered effectively. I was able to gain access for trainees to teaching sessions that were being offered remotely in other regions and to offer my own contributions to these sessions.

These connections helped me to think outside of the box in terms of training delivery, allowing me to observe excellent in-house training programmes operating at another centre. I was able to further develop this concept and to propose an echocardiography training hub for the orkshire. This concept was supported by the BSE who were able to offer invaluable advice on constructing a business case for this proposal which is now being considered by the national transformation team. These training plans are in-keeping with BSE recommendations (2023) and also support the establishment of the educator role within echocardiography, with a view to improving staff retention.

Our network of BSE representatives have a wealth of experience and by sharing this we have been able to establish and grow a substantial bank of resources for both experienced and trainee sonographers. The network gives us a forum to discuss our practice and to share our experiences, which has allowed many centres to further develop their services, including the potential to develop new roles, essential for staff retention and career progression.

As the role of the echocardiographer continues to grow and we establish more scientist-led roles, this network will prove invaluable at offering experience, support and guidance, as I have already witnessed on numerous occasions.

From a personal perspective, it has been fantastic to watch this network grow, as we move towards more collaborative ways of working which can only benefit the profession, our patients and our prospects. BSE support has been vital for me to succeed in the practice educator role and will allow me to continue developing a regional approach to training.

Find out more about the Regional Representatives Network