A radiographer from Poynton is part of a team of eight NHS staff who have won a prestigious national healthcare award.

Jane Miller works as a principal radiographer in the proton beam therapy service at The Christie, one of the leading international cancer centres. She has helped The Christie win The Chief Allied Health Professions Officer’s award for the ‘creative provision of placements’.

The winning project involved The Christie redesigning the way it delivers clinical practice placements to trainee therapy radiographers gaining experience of a specialist form of radiotherapy called proton beam therapy. The Christie opened the first NHS high energy proton beam therapy service in 2018. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Christie had to reduce the number of trainees and students at the cancer centre, to minimise the risk of infection to other staff and patients.

Jane was part of a team at The Christie that completely changed the way that trainee therapy radiographers learned about and experienced the proton beam therapy service at The Christie, with most of the learning taking place through interactive online sessions followed by a two week placement at The Christie.

The new approach widened inclusivity and accessibility, applied a coaching philosophy for learners, and instilled NHS leadership qualities in them. 

The project was funded through a grant from Health Education England’s clinical placement expansion programme. 

Commenting on the award win, Jane said: “I’m thrilled that the work I’ve been involved with to ensure that professional education for trainee therapy radiographers was able to go ahead safely during the pandemic has been recognised at a national level. The Chief Allied Health Professions Officer’s Award is one of the most prestigious awards for Allied Health Professions.”

Feedback from students who have benefitted from the new approach to clinical placements has been overwhelmingly positive with comments such as: “I feel more engaged, ready to understand more, absorb more and become a better professional” and “The Christie team really created an open, comfortable but educational virtual environment.”

The need to increase the number of therapy radiographers has been identified by Health Education England at a national level, with 18% more people needing to enter the profession to meet the national cancer workforce plan.

The innovative approach adopted by The Christie will allow a further increase in clinical placements for trainees in the future and boost capacity nationally. The success of the project will be shared with other NHS organisations locally, regionally and nationally to spread the benefits of the innovation. The programme will run again in 2021-22 and be available to 415 students from 10 universities in England.

The team has also been given some national funding to develop two new projects for nurses and therapy radiographers. 

The Chief Allied Health Professions Officer’s award for the ‘creative provision of placements’ was open to Allied Health Professions, clinical educators and students from health and social care or education who changed the way learning is delivered for other Allied Health Professions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It included creative initiatives that increased practice-based learning opportunities whilst maintaining or improving quality and having the capability to be scaled up to benefit even more people in the future.

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.