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AHPs 'key to quality of life'

Chief health professions officer Karen Middleton told the conference that allied health professionals were moving into a stage where strong leadership and a clear message about their critical role in improving people's ability to function independently would be vital.

'What is “brand AHP”?' she asked. 'It's about quality of life.' It was time to 'get over' worrying about what AHPs were - and focus on what they do, she added. There was everything to play for: 'The current healthcare agenda - tackling long-term conditions, health promotion and moving care closer to home - is ours.'

The challenge was that the more AHPs removed patients from the healthcare system, the less they figured 'on the radar'. 'We work to prevent people going into hospital… and the more successful we are with our interventions and treatments, the more invisible we become,' she said.

Further challenges, she felt, included the physical location of AHP services - often out of view to GPs or consultants - and a failure to influence confidently and strategically.

AHPs needed, she said, to seize their opportunities, looking outwards at wider trends and perspectives, and the work of other healthcare professionals.

The most important way to influence budget-holders and commissioners was to talk about results and 'outcomes that are meaningful to our patients', with a focus on care pathways.

Therapists often acted as a first point of contact for patients, directing them to appropriate services from other professionals such as nurses, increasingly with support from a shared assessment process. 'Without AHPs, the 18-week target will not be achieved', she said.

The CHPO highlighted her four priorities as improving access, modernising the workforce, data collection and information management, and developing leadership capacity and capability. She said the NHS competency-based career framework, ready by the end of this year, should help both clinicians and commissioners design services around patients and what was needed.

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