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Biomedical scientists – at the heart of healthcare

They may not be on the frontline, but pathologists and biomedical scientists play a vital role in saving and improving lives in our modern healthcare system.

The figures speak for themselves. 70% of medical diagnoses are based on the results of lab analysis work carried out by biomedical scientists. Each year, biomedical scientists handle 150 million samples and carry out more than a billion tests. Over 260,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in the last two years and almost all of those were diagnosed by pathologists testing blood, urine or other fluids, or from a biopsy.

Despite these impressive statistics, few people who are not healthcare professionals are likely to readily name pathologists and biomedical scientists as key NHS staff. Yet it's those 'back office' workers who produce the crucial data on which doctors, consultants and surgeons base their diagnoses and treatment plans.

In 2015, while President of the Royal College of Pathologists, Dr Suzy Lishman commented on the importance of the profession in relation to the NHS Five Year Forward View and new models of care: "Pathology is at the heart of modern healthcare and is the foundation of disease prevention, high quality diagnosis and patient care. It has the potential to improve healthcare and deliver financial savings to ensure a cost-effective, more responsive, sustainable NHS."

Let's also not forget research.

Imagine a world in which new, life-threatening viruses and bacteria are not identified, and life-saving vaccines and antibiotics are not discovered. That's a world without biomedical researchers. The high standards of healthcare we enjoy today are founded on centuries of tireless work investigating the causes of diseases, and ways to prevent and cure them.

"While biomedical scientists and the laboratories in hospitals are often hidden away and forgotten about, it is important to remember the impact this work has daily on patient care," says biomedical scientist Holly in the careers guide published by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBS). "Without biomedical scientists working 24/7, clinicians would not be able to carefully monitor their patients' conditions and alter their care accordingly."

The IBS has recently been running a high-profile campaign to promote better awareness of the importance of biomedical science. Launched to coincide with the annual Biomedical Science Day, At the Heart of Healthcare has been stimulating lots of discussion and sharing on social media, including many tweets of support to #attheheartofhealthcare from biomedical scientists and pathologists across the UK.

"Despite many encounters with our work throughout their lifetime, most people are unaware of the important role of biomedical science in their healthcare, " commented IBS President Alison Geddis in an interview with Scientist Live. "At the Heart of Healthcare aims to highlight how the role of our members is central to patients' healthcare."

At Sanctuary, we are fully supportive of the roles that biomedical scientists have to play in diagnosing and treating illnesses. We recruit for a wide range of biomedical science job roles – if you would like any more information please contact one of our trained consultants.
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