Assistant Practitioner (Life Science)

In NHSScotland, Healthcare Science Assistant Practitioners normally work in laboratories as part of a team, with other healthcare science staff. They are trained to maintain and operate complex equipment to carry out quality assured tests and technical procedures on biological samples, such as blood and urine.

They provide scientific information to doctors and other healthcare professionals, to help in the assessment and diagnosis of a patient’s medical condition or disease.

The Role(s)

As a Healthcare Science Assistant Practitioner, you could carry out tests and undertake technical procedures on patient samples using a range of scientific measurements.

You would specialise in one of three areas:

  • infection sciences – you’ll identify viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites that can cause infection or disease
  • blood sciences – you’ll analyse biological samples to help with the diagnosis and management of disease
  • cellular sciences – you’ll analyse tissue cells to look for the presence of abnormalities or reveal tissue cell structure.

Depending on your chosen specialist area, your work activities could include:

  • analysing blood samples for disease or abnormalities
  • using specialist procedures, such as cell culture for cancer screening
  • providing test results to clinicians, so they can diagnose and treat patients
  • operating complex equipment, such as a multi-test analyser, chromatographic equipment, radioisotope counter and vacuum assisted tissue processor
  • providing advice to and supervision of Medical Laboratory Assistants (MLA's) working within the laboratory
  • adhering to quality control procedures to ensure accurate results
  • maintenance, repair, technical fault finding and performance of instruments and equipment

Skills, Interests and Abilities

To work as a Healthcare Science Assistant Practitioner, useful skills will include:

  • technical and practical skills
  • a high level of accuracy and excellent attention to detail
  • strong communication skills
  • good organisational skills
  • teamworking skills
  • committed to the wellbeing of patients
  • professional with an excellent work ethic
  • good problem-solving skills 

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to work on your own initiative and take responsibility for making decisions
  • the ability to multitask and prioritise workload
  • empathy and understanding when working directly with patients
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods

Entry Requirements

To become a Healthcare Science Assistant Practitioner in NHSScotland, you will need to be educated to SCQF level 8 HND Biomedical Science; HND Applied Biological Science or an undergraduate science degree.

Healthcare Science Support Workers (higher grade) with evidence of working within a laboratory environment and experience of a wide variety of laboratory procedures and a commitment to achieving an HND in Biomedical Science (SCQF Level 8) may also be able to apply.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme

Depending on the specific role, you may also need to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme managed by Disclosure Scotland.

Learning and Development

You will be encouraged to develop your career in NHSScotland and you will be given the training you need for the job including:

  • All Standard Operating Procedures
  • Quality Management Policies
  • External Quality Assessment and Internal Quality Control
  • Laboratory and Hospital Health and Safety
  • Risk Management

In addition, you'll also be required to adhere to local policies and current data protection legislation, such as GDPR.

In NHSScotland, Healthcare Science Assistant Practitioners start on band 4 of the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system.

Career pathway

During your career, you may have the opportunity to study for additional qualifications, in order to:

  • keep your knowledge and skills up to date
  • become skilled in advanced technologies and learn how to use new equipment
  • progress to more senior or specialist roles in Healthcare Science

These qualifications will help your career prospects, leading to more senior roles, such as a Biomedical Scientist, Specialist Biomedical Scientist or Healthcare Science Manager. They could also provide the opportunity for you to specialise in areas of Biomedical Science, such as blood sciences, cellular sciences, or infection sciences.

Professional Bodies

Find out more information from these professional and regulatory bodies: 

Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS)

The IBMS is the professional body for biomedical science in the UK. It sets standards of practice to protect patients, funds research and promotes public awareness of biomedical science. Find out more on the IBMS website

The Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS)

The AHCS an umbrella organisation covering training and policy issues for a range of healthcare science roles. Find out more on the AHCS website.