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Dr Jane Needham, lead healthcare scientist

Through her years as lead healthcare scientist at Hampshire Hospitals, Dr Jane Needham has worked to better represent the 220+ healthcare science roles across 16 specialisms at the trust. Through the COVID pandemic, the important role healthcare science plays in the NHS became clearer than ever as innovative testing became crucial to the response, and Jane helped to represent the trust at a national level. 

We sat down (virtually!) with Dr Needham to explore some of her experience as lead healthcare scientist at Hampshire Hospitals.  

What drove you to take up the lead healthcare scientist role at HHFT? 

I have been a passionate healthcare scientist for decades - working professionally as a biomedical scientist specialising for many years in the field of haemostasis and thrombosis, which I have found fascinating and challenging but most importantly clinically rewarding in using knowledge and expertise for the investigation, diagnosis and care of patients.  

I also love teaching and training and been privileged to have played a part in the career development of several our scientists working in pathology. With my background the role of lead healthcare scientist provided me with a wonderful opportunity to professionally represent, provide professional leadership and promote healthcare scientists and their extensive contribution to high quality patient care within the trust. 

What has your experience of the COVID-19 pandemic been like as a healthcare scientist?  

It may come as a surprise but there are over 220 healthcare scientists and support staff, covering 16 specialisms working across the trust - all are playing critical roles in supporting patient care during this pandemic.  

From establishing and providing high volume COVID-19 testing for patients and staff - crucial for diagnosis, treatment and reducing spread by our Microbiology team - to the thousands of pieces of new equipment evaluated and commissioned for use on wards to support patients with COVID-19, by our medical engineers and the provision of complex investigations and diagnostics in a rapidly evolving field of science to support the ongoing clinical care of patients with COVID-19 and continuing to provide ‘business as usual’ service in between.  

As lead healthcare scientist, I have been the point of contact to disseminate COVID-19 regional and national communications, research and innovation - to provide links for specialism experts to discuss issues, challenges and determine current best practices.  

If you could talk to your past self, what advice would you give to the Jane just starting the role? 

I would say: Maintain confidence. Actively engage and work with other professional leads within the trust. Maintain determination and perseverance in promoting healthcare scientists and their current and future roles in delivering high quality patient care. Participate and contribute at national level, you have a wealth of knowledge and experience to bring to the table. Use your drive to promote healthcare science to the next generation. And finally - you’re passionate about healthcare science and scientists - so enjoy it! 

What have been some professional highlights for you in the role? 

It’s always great to have the opportunity to meet other dedicated healthcare scientists from the many other specialisms within the trust and gain a greater insight into their clinical work. 

Another highlight has been actively promoting and increasing representation of healthcare science and scientists within the trust and through regional and national networking through the CSO at department of health. 

I also really enjoy joining in public engagement events within the trust and seeing and hearing the visitors, amazement and interest of the science behind caring for patients through open days or career fairs to find and inspire the next generation of scientists. 

Did you see our 'Journey of a COVID-19 test at Hampshire Hospitals' video?

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Sam Wright is practice development and training officer for Pathology and Radiology at the trust. As part of Healthcare Science Week, Sam shares her experience inspiring the next generation as a STEM ambassador: 

“A biomedical scientist of almost 21 years, I have worked at both Basingstoke and Winchester sites in the Cellular Pathology team, most recently specialising in advanced specimen dissection. One of the most exciting parts of my current role is the opportunity to share Healthcare Science with local - and not so local – schools, colleges and other youth organisations as a STEM Ambassador - volunteering through Inspiring Futures programme and in conjunction with The Basingstoke Consortium.” 

“Over the last two years I have been able to introduce the world of Healthcare Science to nearly 500 students from 6-16 years of age. I love the face-to-face opportunities, where I can provide a more hands-on experience – but of course in recent times virtual platforms have become the only way that we are able to engage with students. It can be challenging talking to a sea of dots on a computer screen but the buzz when the questions start flying though the chat is amazing.” 

“My favourite activity is a cancer case study presentation where the students are the ‘scientists’ and have to interpret the lab results, prop microbiology plates and histology slides to determine the diagnosis for the patient - dissecting the plasticine colon (pictured) is always entertaining!”  

You can learn more about STEM ambassadors here: