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Exit criteria for certification

The Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) programme has been designed to meet the NHS workforce needs of Healthcare Scientists at consultant level for the future. The bespoke nature of the programme means that evidence of successful completion will vary depending on the pathway taken by the trainee through the 5-year programme. Upon successful completion, the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) will award a Certificate of Completion of Higher Specialist Scientist Training (CCHSST). Trainees who graduate from the programme with a CCHSST will have successfully demonstrated a standard of achievement that enables registration on the Academy of Healthcare Science (AHCS) Higher Specialist Scientist Register (HSSR) and eligibility for appointment at consultant level.

Exiting the programme

It will be the trainee’s responsibility to initiate the certification process. Application to exit the HSST programme with certification will normally be formally submitted to the NSHCS within a three month window of the 5-year anniversary of a trainee’s appointment date to the programme and usually no later than one year after that date using a standardised application form. (In the particular case of Cohort 1 the appointment date will be globally applied as March 2015 irrespective of the actual appointment date.)

It will be in the interest of the trainee to initiate the exit process in a timely fashion and any significant delay greater than one year would require the applicant to demonstrate additionally that their evidence and competency remained up to date. The trainee's application for exit with certification must also be signed by their supervisor who must confirm that the trainee has met all of the standards. (The application for exit form will sit within the trainee's OneFile e-portfolio and will be made available in advance at an appropriate time.) The workplace supervisor must be from an appropriately accredited department and a recognised trainer by the NSHCS, professionally registered and of appropriate standing in both seniority, experience and qualification.

The School’s obligation to formally support trainees will normally end 5 years after entry to the programme or at the end of any formally agreed extension period and when the trainee ceases to receive financial support from HEE.

It will be the trainee’s responsibility to accumulate, collate and present the evidence for exit. This is detailed for each specialism in Figures 1 and 2 and summarised below.

Figure 1 - Exit evidence for HSST Life Sciences programme pathways

graphic showing the exit evidence for HSST life sciences programme pathways

Figure 2 - Exit evidence for HSST Physical and Physiological Sciences programme pathways

graphic showing the exit evidence for HSST physical and physiological sciences programme pathways

The expected standard for achieving certification and a successful exit from the programme will be determined by the Academy’s Standards of Proficiency for Higher Specialist Scientists (HSSR), the learning outcomes1 of the specialist curriculum and that the trainee has demonstrated the application of the appropriate specialty knowledge, skills and behaviours by the quality and types of evidence in their e-portfolio (OneFile) and achieved a successful outcome for the professional doctorate or the FRCPath. In addition, Clinical Biomedical Engineering trainees must always evidence that they have acquired CEng status.

For Bioinformatics, Physical and Physiological Sciences, coincident with their exit application, trainees will be required to provide a ‘showcase’ of five items of evidence from their OneFile portfolio each referencing one of the five domains of the Academy’s Standards for Higher Specialist Scientists. Separate items of evidence are required for each of the five domains.

They will also be required to undertake an Independent Assessment of Professional Skills (IAPS) which will consist of a professional discussion with a panel of expert specialism-specific examiners. The format will comprise an assessment of the trainee’s understanding of the showcased OneFile evidence and the review of a specialist paper relating to research or service development within the specialism.

The panel reserves the right in exceptional circumstances to request additional evidence or to undertake an on-site interview and evidence review with the trainee and their supervisor. Further details will be provided on this process if it is invoked.

The Head of School will ratify the panel findings and have ultimate responsibility for the issue of the CCHSST. The Academy, as the overarching governance body for the School, will be invited to review the exit process.

This process has been modelled along similar lines to the Part 2 examinations for FRCPath undertaken by Life Sciences trainees and who are therefore considered as exempt from this requirement.

A detailed pathway will be published following discussion at Themed Boards in mid-November 2018.

Applicants should note that the Medical Physics Expert (MPE) scheme falls outside any certification awarded by the School and potential registrants for this will need to apply independently to an Assessing Body (RPA200) in order to be recognised as having the basic competency required to act as a MPE. Potential applicants to the MPE register are advised to consult the information available from the Department of Health who is the Competent Authority. 


The particular evidence a trainee applying for certification and to exit the programme is required to submit is dependent on the bespoke pathway and specialism the trainee has chosen to follow and is summarised in Figures 1 and 2.

This will include some or all of the following:

  • Successful completion of the Doctor of Clinical Science (DClinSci) in its entirety or component parts dependent on pathway;
  • Completion of an Innovation Project undertaken as Module C1;
  • Evidence of exemption from Module C2 by virtue of a relevant and timely PhD;
  • Successful completion of the Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (Life Sciences only);
  • Successful completion of CEng (Clinical Biomedical Engineering only);
  • Successful completion of the Independent Assessment of Practical Skills (Physical and Physiological Sciences only);
  • Workplace Based evidence demonstrating the appropriate application of specialty knowledge and skills through the quality and types of evidence in an e-portfolio (OneFile) and appropriately mapped to the domains of the AHCS Standards of Proficiency for Higher Specialist Scientists and to the learning outcomes of the specialist curriculum;
  • Engagement with the Annual Review of Progression;
  • Sign-off by the Workplace based supervisor as meeting the requirements of the Higher Specialist Scientist Training programme.


There will be two possible outcomes:

  1. Evidence is sufficient to demonstrate the successful completion of all required components of the bespoke HSST programme and the Certificate of Completion of HSST is awarded.
  2. Additional evidence is required by the panel in order to demonstrate successful completion of the HSST programme. This will be detailed in a recommendation from the panel and both the trainee and supervisor informed.


Please note:

Clinical Biomedical Engineering trainees must always evidence that they have acquired CEng status (see:

Applications for Medical Physics Expert fall outside the scope of the School’s certification process and should seek further advice from the Department of Health as the Competent Authority

1 The use of the term learning outcomes is adopted in its widest sense and may not be explicit as such in all versions of the curricula. Learning outcomes describe significant and essential learning that will have been achieved, and can reliably be demonstrated at the end of the program.