Healthcare Science Week 2012

What is Healthcare Science all about?

Rapid advances in technology mean that Healthcare Science is now one of the fastest moving, most exciting and challenging areas in the NHS.  The NHS relies on Healthcare Scientists to help find out exactly what’s wrong with patients, recommend what needs to be done to help them and, in many cases treat them too.  They also develop and test new, sophisticated technology and techniques to provide safer and more effective ways to diagnose and manage medical problems and improve patient care.  While Healthcare Scientists represent only around 5% of the total workforce in the NHS in Scotland, almost 80% of patient diagnoses can be attributed to their work. Their work is constantly evolving as science and technology advances at an ever faster pace.  They are at the forefront of innovation providing newer, better, safer ways to care for patients.

Healthcare Science at the SMART Centre

At the SMART Centre, there are two groups of Healthcare Scientists.  The Clinical Scientists (Bioengineers) conduct assessments, prescribe and design bespoke medical devices for the Wheelchair and Seating Service, the Special Needs Design Service and the Electronic Assistive Technology (EAT) Service.  They also provided scientific support, including risk assessment, for other SMART Services, such as the Gait Lab.  The Healthcare Technologists (Technicians) assemble, manufacture and repair equipment for all the SMART Services that provide medical devices, including Orthotics and Prosthetics.

Over many years, since the Bioengineering Centre was founded in 1963, Healthcare Scientists have been to the fore in assistive technology.  This has been both from a fundamental research and development perspective (particularly in prosthetics and gait analysis) and a clinical perspective with the introduction of new technologies and techniques.  This work has been published and reported widely over many years.  Recently, the pioneering work in prosthetics was recognised when the National Museum of Scotland was reopened in 2011 with a display and poster.  Work in Wheelchairs and Seating has also been recognised with national innovation awards and an NHS Lothian Celebrating Success award.

Discover more!

If you wish to discover more about Healthcare Science and Healthcare Scientists, then check out the following websites and documents.

Learn about the real and varied careers of a wide assortment of Healthcare Scientists, including the SMART Centre’s very own David Gow on page 83, in the Department of Health’s Extraordinary You

Find out about the Scottish Government’s plans by checking out its Healthcare Science webpage or its 2007 Action Plan Safe, Accurate & Effective.  Note that a National Delivery Plan is being developed and should be available soon.

Learn about what NHS Education Scotland is doing to support the education and training of Healthcare Scientists in Scotland at

Written & compiled by Dr Michael J Dolan, SMART Centre, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh.