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Allied Health Professionals into Action – one year on

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It is a year since we published AHPs into Action which was accompanied by a blog explaining what this means from a public health perspective.

As such, I wanted to take this opportunity to outline the progress and achievements made by AHPs around promoting population health in the past year.

AHPs into Action is a ‘call to action’ and strategic framework to increase the use of AHPs in the transformation of health, care and wellbeing in England. We developed it through crowdsourcing involving more than 16,000 contributions.

I was delighted to see the prominence of population healthcare in AHPs into Action. It reflected the collective work we have been undertaking over the past four years to increase recognition of the role of AHPs in public health, as well as the wider ongoing debate across health and social care about the need to increase emphasis on prevention.

Developing public health skills and knowledge

In the last year the Council of Deans for Health published guidance on the public health content within the pre-registration curriculum for AHPs.

This was a consensus between all partners with an interest in the education of AHPs including the regulator, professional bodies, PHE, NHS England, NHS improvement and Health Education England as well as corresponding organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This previous blog includes a summary of the guidance, which is intended to ensure that public health and prevention are embedded throughout the pre-registration curricula.

AHP involvement in national programmes

Throughout the year, AHPs have increasingly been involved in national strategic work focused on particular aspects of public health and prevention.

Here are a few notable examples:

  • The input of speech and language therapy was very prominent in the recent social mobility through education plan from the Department for Education. This recognises the importance of developing speech language and communication skills early to support educational and workplace attainment and thereby reduce inequalities.
  • The Royal College of Occupational Therapists is working with PHE to pilot the Health and Work Champions There is a strong evidence showing that work is generally good for health and wellbeing. The Health and Work Champions programme aims to bring about culture change in the NHS so that work is regarded as a valid and legitimate aspect of good patient care and so that it is routinely enquired about in patient consultations. Brief advice or onward referral can then be carried out for further employment support as required.
  • PHE has worked with orthoptists and others to publish a suite of resources for childhood vision screening. The UK National Screening Committee recommended screening on a number of occasions, most recently in 2013, but this was the first time that resources have been developed to support local services.  Having reduced vision can have a major impact on a child’s learning and general development.
  • There has also been excellent strategic connections between AHPs and the emergency services, including the Ambulance Service Public Health Consensus involving the College of Paramedics, as well as collaborative work between occupational therapists and fire and rescue services building on prevention and response roles to reduce risk and enhance safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people and communities.
  • AHP professions also supported the national falls consensus, the prevention concordat for better mental health and the Moving Health Care Professions physical activity programme.

Changing practice

It was fantastic this year to see AHPs4PH launch a programme which supported 12 advocates to implement a public health service improvement. The winner of this year's advancing healthcare awards public-health category, sponsored by PHE and the Faculty of Public Health, was Gillian Rawlinson, a physiotherapist from Salford Royal Hospitals NHS Trust whose project embedded health promotion within musculoskeletal physiotherapy services.

This collaborative service redesign incorporated opportunistic health assessments, NHS Health Check and diabetes checks within routine physiotherapy assessments. Gillian has blogged about her experience of winning this award.

Stimulating public health research by AHPs

It was also great to see a higher number of entries to the Council for AHP Research public health award, demonstrating that AHPs are increasingly focused on research as well as implementation in relation to public health.

As we move into the second year of AHPs into Action, I am pleased to be working collaboratively with the chief AHP officer, AHP leads from HEE and NHS Improvement and the professional bodies to continue to embed public health and prevention into day-to-day practice.

AHPs are ready and willing to support local public health programmes, have you invited them to your party?

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