Doctors of the Future

Supplementary content information

In a unique communications partnership, the Royal Society of Medicine and ITN Productions have launched a news and current affairs-style programme. 'Doctors of the Future' looks at the transformations in medical education as well as innovations in medical research and technologies that will shape the healthcare of tomorrow.

Introduced by national newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, the programme features key industry interviews and news-style reports. The programme premiered at the 12th Medical Innovations Summit on Saturday 16 April 2016 at The Royal Society of Medicine.

In this report, Sue Saville explores how EPSRC-funded research and training produce both the healthcare technologies and the underpinning research and researchers required to move medicine forward.


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About ITN Productions

ITN Productions is ITN's bespoke production hub producing creative and commercially valuable content for the business, commercial, broadcast and digital sectors. Industry News forms part of this offering and is a communications tool for leading industry bodies and national associations produced in a broadcast news programme format, including interviews, news items and sponsored editorial profiles.

About the Royal Society of Medicine

The Royal Society of Medicine is one of the country's major providers of accredited postgraduate medical education. Each year, the RSM organises over 400 academic and public events, spanning 60 areas of special interest providing a multi-disciplinary forum for discussion and debate. Videos of many key lectures are also available online, increasing access to the Society's education programme.

The RSM is home to one of the finest medical libraries in the world, with an extensive collection of books, journals, electronic journals and online medical databases. As well as providing medical education, the Society aims to promote an exchange of information and ideas on the science, practice and organisation of medicine, both within the health professions and with responsible and informed public opinion. The Society is not a policy-making body and does not issue guidelines or standards of care.

Doctors of the Future


Innovation needs world leading research and skilled people to get off the ground, no more so than in medicine where the development process can take years and collaboration across disciplines and boundaries is critical to success. Investments by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) have contributed to more than £650 million in savings for healthcare services in the UK alone. Sue Saville reports.

Sue Saville (SS)

What these PhD students are creating here in Glasgow is likely to revolutionise the way we receive, and benefit from, healthcare. With investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the team work closely with clinicians to produce solutions to novel challenges.

Professor Karen Faulds, Pure and Applied Chemistry – University of Strathclyde (KF)

We essentially speed date each other, the physical scientists, the clinicians, the biomedicals, so we get together and we talk, the physical scientists can be going “oh I’ve got this technique, what could you use it for”, or saying “we’ve got this problem, how could you go about solving it”. The EPSRC funding is vital; this centre wouldn’t exist without EPSRC funding.


More than 50 centres for doctoral training related to innovative healthcare research are supported by the EPSRC. Even the students think it’s excitingly sci-fi.

Student 1

My main motivation is to try and develop what’s so called “star trek” physics, the idea that you can use light to detect if someone’s ill, or to treat them and things like that.

Student 2

If we’re aware of the funding that’s out there and the routes we should be thinking of while we’re doing our experiments here in the lab, then we can think more cleverly about the design of these experiments and that’ll help us commercialise these things quicker.


And that’s the point; research at this level is certainly costly, but in the long run it will save time, money and lives. The work in these highly sophisticated laboratories is being translated to bring the lab to the palm of the hand. A sample loaded with nanoparticles is put inside the device, and then, if I just press this button a laser will scan for biomarkers, and within just four seconds, the clinician can diagnose the patient.

Another multidisciplinary venture funded by the EPSRC is underway in Edinburgh. The PROTEUS project draws on optical physics, chemistry and mathematics to touch and tell disease in hitherto inaccessible parts of the body.

Dr Kev Dhaliwal, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine – Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (KD)

So what we have here is a tiny optical fibre and as part of the PROTEUS project we’re developing fibre based sensing so that we can pass fibres deep into tissue and sense disease, deep in the areas of the lung that we’ve not sensed before.


This research takes ideas from the workbench to the bedside. The PROTEUS project’s clinical lead steps from the university across to the hospital.


So the EPSRC, as the push of science, is the fundamental way that we will innovate in healthcare, so as clinicians, we adopt technology, and I think historically we’ve not been driving the technology. Rather than just be handed something for us to be involved in and actually developing it.

Professor Calum McNeil, Professor of Biological Sensor Systems – University of Newcastle (CM)

We’re developing sensors which will recognise and identify bacterial organisms.


Creating an early warning system for infectious diseases is the aim of the i-Sense collaboration between five universities, Public Health England, clinical and commercial partners such as Microsoft and Google, with an £11 million investment from EPSRC.


We have everything in the UK in terms of the technology, the engineers, and the computer scientists. The investment of EPSRC in something which is multi-disciplinary, cross-institute, collaborative research is hugely important because otherwise it just wouldn’t be done it couldn’t be done.


EPSRC has invested at least £650 million in healthcare related research, taking pride in training people with medical and engineering backgrounds together.

Dr Annette Bramley, Head of Healthcare Technologies - EPSRC

So the UK’s world leading in some areas of research and by training people together and letting them grow up together in those two environments, we can produce really great people, really well placed for the next generation of science problems that we face in the UK.


As healthcare moves into a digital age, it’s vital that the researchers and clinicians are supported today to transform the patient care of tomorrow.