Ageing Population: Meeting Needs Through Innovation
- 08:30 - 16:15
- etc.venues, Manchester
Ala Szczepura has dedicated over thirty years of her life to research in medicine and health sciences.
She gained her first degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Oxford, and then went on to complete a DPhil there. Working in the Health Services Evaluation Group in Oxford she helped to produce the first model for resource allocation in the NHS based on population needs. A Postdoctoral Research Fellowship followed at the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology. She then moved to industry, becoming the sole female senior researcher in the British Gas National R&D Division. With two young children she developed a portfolio of work in science and education, including Science Presenter for Yorkshire TV and Senior Tutor at the Open University.
In the mid-1980s, she returned to a full-time academic career taking up a post as senior research fellow in the Centre for Health Services Studies (CHESS) at the University of Warwick. In 1996 she was awarded a personal Professorship by the University. In the same year she became Director of CHESS and was appointed Director of the NHS Graduate General Management Training Scheme, a fast-track training programme in Warwick Business School to develop future NHS Trust CEOs. In 2000, as a member of the University Education Policy Group, she was instrumental in the establishment of a Medical School at Warwick; initially part of the joint Leicester-Warwick Medical School, Warwick became an independent Medical School in 2007. She is a strong supporter of the role of women and was a member of Warwick Medical School’s successful bid in 2013 for an Athena SWAN Silver award; the first medical school in England to hold the Silver award.
She has published over 150 peer-reviewed scientific articles on medical innovation and service improvement. These include evaluations of: the first MRI scanner in the NHS; automated laboratory haematology testing; near-patient testing in GP surgeries; new molecular tests for prenatal diagnosis; national training for key-hole surgery; establishment of a UK bowel cancer screening programme; novel prenatal blood tests to replace amniocentesis; management of back pain; treatment of whiplash injuries; enhanced diabetes care; kidney transplant services; in-reach specialist care for residential homes; medication administration errors in older people; improving uptake of cancer screening; digital health and online self-management; assistive technologies for the ageing population; and, most recently, gender equity in medical specialties such as surgery.
Professor Szczepura was actively involved in the development of a research strategy for the NHS. In 1992-3 she was seconded to the Department of Health where she worked closely with Dr Chris Henshall in establishing the NHS Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme. The definition of ‘technology’ is broad to include ‘all the methods used by health professionals to promote health, prevent and treat disease, and improve rehabilitation and long term care’. The HTA Programme, was launched in 1993 and is now a key element of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Programme. She has supported high quality medical science through her membership of the NHS Advisory Panel for Diagnostics and Imaging, the NHS Advisory Panel for Screening, the HTA Research Commissioning Board, and the Steering Group for the NHS Technology Horizon Scanning project. For ten years she has been a member of various NIHR Fellowship Panels (Post-Doctoral, Career Development & Senior Research Fellowships). She is currently a member of the UK Early Cancer Detection Consortium and Vice-Chair of the Marie Curie Research Programme Funding Committee.
International roles, among others, include member of the management board of COMETT-ASSESS, an EC Project set up to develop training in HTA across European countries; Director for a series of International HTA Training Workshops for European physicians and policy makers; invited expert on HTA training and education for German Ministry/ WHO workshop to establish HTA in Germany; and socio-economic lead for the SAFE Network of Excellence, funded by the EC to develop and implement new non-invasive prenatal diagnostic tests. She is also a founder member of the International Interest Group on Patient & Citizen Involvement in HTA (established in 2006); and the International Group on HTA in Developing Countries (founded in 2008). She is an Advisory Group member of Warwick Evidence, which undertakes Technology Assessment Reviews for NICE.
Professor Szczepura has a long-standing interest in provision of services to meet the needs of diverse populations. In 2001 she was awarded an ESRC grant to establish a UK Centre for Evidence in Ethnicity, Health and Diversity, jointly with De Montfort University, Leicester. In 2004, the Centre was commissioned by the NHS to develop a Specialist Library for Ethnicity and Health. The Library was launched by the Secretary of State for Health in October 2006 at the House of Commons. In 2009, the Collection became part of a new initiative NHS Evidence under the direction of NICE.
In 2013, Professor Szczepura retired from Warwick. In her sixties, her energy was then directed to a newer University (Coventry) where she took up a part-time appointment as Professor of Health Technology Assessment. In 2014 she became inaugural Director of the Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research, a £4.8million investment by Coventry to catalyse interdisciplinary approaches to introducing new technologies in the NHS. The Centre contributed to Coventry’s ranking as joint 5th among UK universities in the 2014 research quality exercise for Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy.
In 2016 she handed over this role and took on the new challenge of Academic Lead for a University-wide programme to support ageing well through development of innovations such as eHealth, robotics, AI (artificial intelligence), digital arts/ brain exercise and other non-drug inventions co-created with older people. This Data Driven Research and Innovation (DDRI) Programme is working in partnership with care providers and universities across the UK.