70 years of Biomedical Science
How far we’ve come
During Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne, the biomedical science profession has evolved from its humble beginnings in acute hospitals to the highly proficient, regulated and expert profession it is today.
Scientific Advances and Innovation
In the 1950s, very low numbers of patient samples could be tested each day (around 20 per speciality). There was an emphasis on detection of infectious diseases, particularly TB and cellular disease, through pathology post-mortems. With the emergence of diagnostic haematology and clinical chemistry, a small repertoire of manual, time-consuming laboratory investigations and procedures were developed.
Over the years there were huge and ongoing advances in biomedical science and the technology that supported it – so much so that change management and innovation is now taken as rote. Biomedical scientists and laboratory staff regularly apply new scientific methods and advances to their work, and share best practice through their hospital laboratory networks.
The profession now has a massive repertoire of laboratory investigations to apply to patient fluid and tissue samples – and produces all the reports that identify diseases and monitor the effectiveness of treatments. In the UK, biomedical scientists are now directly involved in over 70% of patient diagnoses and investigate over a billion patient samples every year.
Education and Training
The last 70 years has seen the profession develop from a narrow field with time consuming processes and an unsupported workforce to a graduate entry-level regulated profession, supported with post-graduate education and training qualifications for life-long learning.
Through our professional body, the Institute of Biomedical Science, and our universities, biomedical scientists can now research, develop and apply the latest science and technology to their practice for their patients – and are now able to progress to the point of working with equivalence to their medical colleagues.
The profession’s education and training materials continue to advance and evolve, periodically bringing our profession’s expertise to whole new levels - using advances in knowledge and practice, and innovations in technology, to provide better services and better patient care.
By embracing new knowledge and technology, biomedical scientists have dramatically improved patient safety and services. Over the last 70 years we have seen continuous improvement in the accuracy and precision of diagnostic testing and methodologies.
As the profession has moved forward, biomedical scientists have developed and applied more and more stringent internal quality control procedures - extending to the introduction of external quality assurance programmes. There has also been the development of diagnostic laboratory quality standards - with UK laboratories being the first NHS services to have an accreditation programme (this is now delivered through UKAS).
With electronic requesting and transmission of results, risk of errors and turnaround times have been reduced and now digital advances allow for virtual discussions of results and the sharing of digital samples and expertise across networks – using the profession’s expertise ever more effectively.
70 years of Biomedical Science
It was a different world entirely when Queen Elizabeth II was first coronated and our profession is one of the greatest indicators of that. Through embracing scientific advances and innovation, and establishing a well of education and training, our ever-increasing contributions to patient care have become widely recognised. We have moved from being the “back room” of the hospital to the beating heart of healthcare.