The Next Horizon

The Next Horizon

Katherine Sutton NHS Highland Associate Director AHPs

I have always had a keen interest in horse riding being fortunate enough to have my own pony as a child. My pony was aptly named “Wee Joker” and lived up to his name by regularly inventing new strategies to get me out of the saddle!


Following one particular occasion where Joker had decided he needed some respite I recall regaining consciousness whilst being transported in the back of an ambulance from one community hospital to another. Next to me was a very noisy wire rack, as I reached out to ask “what is that?” The ambulance man kindly advised that these were my “wet plate x-rays”.

Looking back on Wee Jokers antics I now appreciate what that scamp of a pony has done for me. If it weren’t for the various visits to the local Radiographer during my teenage years to examine the extent of my injuries I would never have decided to become a Diagnostic Radiographer.

Becoming a Diagnostic Radiographer at this point in time has afforded the opportunity to become a part of the evolution from wet film processors where we followed a maze system to get into the dark room to the implementation of automatic processors, film loaders and then the introduction of tele-radiography, CR, DR, PACS, II , CT, MR, U/S. As Radiographers we seem to have had an endless list of acronyms for the various modalities we have had to master. The advance of technology has been relentless as has the pace and scope of change.


Qualifying as a sonographer and developing as an advanced practice Radiographer challenged me and my colleagues not only to keep pace with technological advances but also with the advancement of Professional Practice. Whilst professional boundaries were being broken and professional territory being invaded with assistant practitioner roles and advanced practice Diagnostic Radiographer roles being introduced and taking on roles historically the territory of Consultant Radiologists change within the Radiography profession has been relentless.

I am pleased to say that it has not been change for change sake, whilst LEAN and the Toyota Production System were evolving Radiology was applying these commonsense approaches to QI driven largely by the creativity and tenacity of Radiographers to support their medical colleagues to deliver the high quality imaging systems we are all witness to today. My current ambition is to see similar application of advances in technology applied to support the evolution of the remainder of the AHP professions. The geography of the Highlands is beautiful and a privilege to be a regular part of as we deliver services. It is also one of the biggest obstacles to the delivery of healthcare locally; embracing technology to help us deliver transformational change will mean more rapid access to services by facilitating more effective use of clinical time.

DiscussionService users need to be facilitated to easily access our services; we need to redesign pathways which support individuals being placed on a natural course to and through the most appropriate professions and services.

To do this we need to have the confidence to try out new ideas through small scale tests of change, learning from what works and what doesn’t work in a safe and controlled way. The pathway from where we are now to where we aim to get to is unclear. We can currently see the next horizon but until we get there we will not see the potential for what lies beyond. We need to have confidence to follow incremental small steps to complete our journey and to value all views and opinions as collectively they all shape the pathway to that new horizon and what lies beyond.

When I came into Radiography as a student the idea that we would be able to transport digital images around the nation at the touch of a button was incomprehensible. The pathway from where we were on entering the profession to where we are now has been realised through incremental steps. It is important that we allow the journey to take place but it is also important that we continue to make the journey and that we do that together with our service users.

I wonder where we will have arrived in another 30 years? That is impossible to predict but is worthy of some creative thought as the future is ours to shape!

Screenshot 2014-02-07 10.51.08 


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