How Many Years?

Kicking off our week of daily blogs celebrating #AHPsDayScot and #AHPsDay is Carolyn McDonald Associate Director for the AHPs at NHS Fife Scotland.  Keep an eye out every day for a new post.

c2A trip down memory lane on becoming AHPs in Scotland

Carolyn McDonald

Chair AHP Directors Scotland Group

Today, on 14th October 2019 the Allied Health Professions (AHPs), the third largest workforce in healthcare, celebrate national AHPs Day where we use this opportunity to flood the system about who we are, what we do and where we work. As Chair of the AHP Directors Scotland Group (ADSG) I am choosing this time to reflect on where we have been and ask you all to look forward to the future – as I truly believe that this is our time.

We are so fortunate in Scotland to have AHP Directors or Associate Directors in most Health Boards with dedicated strategic leadership providing professional oversight of our services and translating national policy into local delivery using all opportunities to harness the value and contribution of the AHP workforce.

I have been in an AHP leadership role for nearly 20 years and I remember us coming together in Scotland as AHPs in 2001 where some of the professions went kicking and screaming into what was ‘allied health’. It was an interesting time. Some AHPs weren’t troubled by it, others were horrified by it but personally it was to me a better collective than being ‘professions allied to medicine’ or PAMs as were known then. At that time I was working in community child health and being allied to medicine didn’t fit at all with what I did as an AHP where my closest links were to fellow AHPs, children’s nurses, school nurses, health visitors, and education and social services staff.


Our first AHP publication in Scotland was Building on Success published in 2003 where the photos in the publication showed each of the professions with their own profession specific uniform and I know that losing this identity felt like a huge bereavement to some. But if we were to become truly allied to each other what better way than to embrace the new NHS Scotland uniform which came into being many years later in 2009 where all of the allied health professionals moved into Mediterranean blue.


From Strength to Strength followed in 2011 and was the publication which celebrated 10 years of the AHPs coming together in Scotland with a forward from the then Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who acknowledged the commitment, energy and enthusiasm that AHPs demonstrated to deliver on the health agenda.


At almost 100 pages, it was full of examples of AHPs demonstrating new ways of working – all that time ago we were talking about AHPs enthusiastically embracing opportunities to strengthen their roles as first point of contact practitioners delivering improved patient pathways through these new ways of working.

Concepts such as nonmedical prescribing, self referral, triage, online self-management and telehealth (digital) interventions were all included as examples of shifting the way AHPs are working in 2011. From Strength to Strength was truly a great celebration of where AHPs had collectively progressed over the 10 years together.

2012 saw The National Delivery Plan (NDP) for the Allied Health Professions in Scotland published where AHPs were put forward as agents of change in health and social care with 27 recommendations across a range of initiatives.

It defined the future vision for AHPs and here we saw the first reference to health and social care integration where there was a strong support from AHPs that ‘a better outcome for individuals should become a common ethos’.


AHPs as first-point-of-contact practitioners, making a vital contribution to faster diagnostics and earlier interventions in primary care is now happening across the country particularly around MSK and mental health where there are AHPs working closely with general practitioners and community teams to provide alternative pathways to secondary care referral and prevent admissions in areas such as falls prevention and musculoskeletal services.

The NDP defined AHPs as having a key contribution to make to the wider public health agenda, improving health and well-being by, for example, promoting physical activity and healthy nutrition, providing early intervention for prevention, tackling inequalities and enabling children to get the best possible start in life and achieve their full potential.

In 2019 we saw the publication of a collaborative four countries strategic framework: UK Allied Health Professions Public Health Strategic Framework 2019-2024 which highlights how AHPs can build on their public health role in the future. A key feature of this framework is that all four nations of the UK have worked together to produce and agree on their shared priorities; developing the workforce, demonstrating impact, increasing the profile of AHPs in public health and strategic leadership are the strands that will keep AHPs at the forefront of public health practice.

c 1 Our current AHP programme in Scotland The Active and Independent Living Programme (AILP) provides a framework to describe and further engage the AHP contribution to developing new approaches to active and independent living. As this soon draws to a close the AHP Directors are currently working with Scottish Government to prepare how we can capture and promote the ongoing excellent activity that is aligned to AILP.


Throughout this journey the AHP Directors Scotland Group has led nationally and locally on Allied Health Professions working together translating policies and strategic goals into actions through clinical leadership. Our place at the table through visible AHP leadership is clearly articulating the workforce’s value and contribution.

The theme for 2019 AHPS day is to Celebrate, Appreciate and Inspire so whilst we celebrate where we have come from and appreciate all of the hard work across the country to get us to where we are now we need to consider how we inspire those coming behind us.

Winston Churchill said “before you can inspire with emotion you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must believe”.

So I will leave you with a few thoughts….

Where are AHPs positioned in your organisation? How close is that AHP leadership to your Chief Executive and Chief Officer to ensure the AHP contribution is considered and valued? If you are too far away what influence can you have?

Remember that if a ‘nonAHP’ represents you at the table, it will be a very short conversation!

Beyond clinical – what do AHPs contribute to your organisation?

Are you succession planning for future AHP leaders – providing opportunities for leadership development, mentoring, shadowing?

We have been the Allied Health Professions for 18 years in Scotland – we are allied to each other and the communities we serve so continue working together translating policies and strategic goals into actions through clinical leadership.

Celebrate your separate identities clinically but be proud of our collective and don’t be afraid to set the bar too high to achieve the unachievable.

HAPPY AHPs Day! #AHPsDayScot







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