Steel Benders MD calls for STEM expertise in the NHS

Steel Benders UK’s managing director Tania Cooper is a passionate advocate of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) across education.

As chair of the North East STEM Foundation, Tania has been writing about the need for NHS reform and STEM expertise. She wrote:

The latest debate that is raging around the NHS, sparked by Sir Keir Starmer’s call for a funding boost and wide-ranging reforms, has highlighted that STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) touches upon every section of our society.

The leaps and bounds that have been made in healthcare and medical research from people who have excelled in STEM-based learning has shown that STEM is the cornerstone of our health service.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that reducing NHS waiting times is one of his five priorities. His opposition counterpart, Sir Keir Starmer, has said his ambition is “building a NHS fit for the future”.

Whilst the North East STEM Foundation welcomes both the Prime Minister’s and the Leader of the Opposition’s ambitions, we believe there needs to be a collaborative approach to both build an NHS fit for the future, but also invest in and build the future NHS workforce.

To initiate Sir Keir’s ‘recipe for reform’, there needs to be a collaborative approach that focuses on STEM training and education and couples it with the NHS, which will assist in educating and training the skilled workforce in science and technology, who will be able to ensure that roles and training were fit for the future.

However, while reform is crucial for the NHS, it cannot be achieved without an adequately trained workforce in STEM. Urgent and significant reforms, paired with a collaborative approach that prioritises STEM training and education within the NHS, will play a pivotal role in building a skilled workforce capable of tackling future healthcare challenges.

The pressing need for reform within the NHS is echoed by many healthcare professionals and policymakers alike.

Addressing the healthcare system’s challenges requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses structural changes, improved efficiency, and enhanced training and education opportunities for the healthcare workforce.

While structural reforms and efficiency measures are undoubtedly vital, neglecting the development of a robust STEM workforce will hinder the NHS’s ability to meet the evolving demands of healthcare.

An increased focus on STEM training and education, integrated within the NHS system, is crucial for ensuring that roles and training programs are designed to be adaptable and future-proof.

By fostering partnerships between educational institutions, scientific organisations, and healthcare providers, the NHS can tap into the expertise and resources of the indigenous STEM community.

Such collaboration will help bridge the gap between the healthcare and STEM sectors, facilitating the development of tailored training programmes and educational initiatives that meet the specific needs of the healthcare workforce.

A collaborative approach will encourage knowledge-sharing, joint research endeavours, and mentorship programs involving STEM professionals and healthcare practitioners.

By integrating STEM expertise within the NHS, healthcare professionals will gain access to cutting-edge technologies, innovative solutions, and a deeper understanding of the scientific advancements shaping modern healthcare and education.

The NHS faces an array of challenges in the coming years, including demographic shifts, technological advancements, and increasing patient expectations. A strong STEM workforce is crucial for the NHS to navigate these challenges successfully.

By equipping healthcare professionals with the necessary skills in science and technology, the NHS can ensure that its workforce remains agile, adaptable, and capable of delivering high-quality care in an ever-changing healthcare landscape.

Training and education in STEM provide opportunities for healthcare professionals to upskill and reskill in STEM fields, fostering a culture of lifelong learning, and incentivising the pursuit of STEM careers within the healthcare sector.

By creating a pipeline of talent and fostering a supportive environment, the NHS can attract and retain skilled professionals who can contribute to the sustained growth and innovation of the healthcare system.

Without a trained STEM workforce, the NHS’s ability to improve and adapt to future challenges will remain limited. Urgent and significant reforms, along with a collaborative approach that integrates STEM training and education within the NHS can ensure the development of a skilled workforce capable of meeting the evolving healthcare needs of the future, but also ensure that the NHS and its workforce are fit for purpose.

Main picture: Tania Cooper pictured left with Steel Benders’ operations director Phil Anderson.