Chief Health Professions Officer

Karen Middleton is the Chief Health Professions Officer (CHPO).Karen Middleton

The CHPO works with a small team of allied health professionals (AHPs) and support staff to advise on issues relating to allied health, lead on specific policy areas and provide professional leadership to AHPs across the healthcare system, of which there are 86,000 across the 12 allied health professions working in the NHS in England alone.

The CHPO team works with and through a network of AHPs across healthcare and with the allied health professional bodies through the AHP Federation. The team’s specific responsibilities include:

  • Developing effective relationships with policy leads across DH to inform policy development in a proactive rather than reactive way.
  • Translating policy into a meaningful and relevant narrative for AHPs across the system and use that narrative to engage this large group of clinicians in the reform agenda.
  • Facilitating co-production between DH, the 12 professional bodies (via the AHP Federation) and clinicians in the service to drive up the quality and productivity of allied health services.
  • Leading and supporting initiatives that enable innovation and improvement in terms of access to and the delivery of allied health services to deliver high quality patient care.
  • Contributing to building workforce capacity and capability and promoting the added-value of the contribution AHPs can make to delivering services when demand is growing.
  • Working with others to support leadership development of AHPs in order to drive up quality and productivity through innovation.
  • Providing ministers and executives of DH with timely advice, support and information that is of the highest quality.
  • Informing and collaborating with OGDs and ALBs in all matters relating to allied health where AHPs can make a significant contribution.
  • Leading on specific policy work such as extending non-medical prescribing for AHPs in order to improve the quality of care experienced by patients and to maximise the contribution AHPs can make to this.

About Karen Middleton: Karen Middleton was appointed as Chief Health Professions Officer for England in March 2007 and is the Government’s most senior Allied Health Professions (AHP) advisor, providing advice on all aspects of the 12 professions classified in this group. In this role, she has raised the profile of the contribution AHPs can make to transforming health and social care through a range of initiatives including the launch of the Competence-based Career Framework for AHPs, the Service Improvement Programme, the Prescribing Scoping Study and the AHP Leadership Challenges.

Karen has contributed to policy more widely, for example, through membership of the National Apprenticeship Advisory Council. She is a member of the External Reference Board for City University’s better Managed Health and Social Care Unit and is a Patron of the London Student Journal of Medicine. Karen has been awarded an honorary doctorate from City University.

Prior to taking up her current post, Karen was Health Professions Advisor at the Department for Health, from 2003, with the specific lead for children and primary care. During this period, Karen completed her Masters in Consultation and the Organisation: A Psychoanalytic approach as well as the European Leadership Programme at INSEAD, France.

Before moving to the Department of Health, Karen worked in the Primary Care Development Team at the London Regional Office, developing primary care across the capital.

Earlier in her career, Karen held a range of NHS management posts across the allied health professions, nursing and support services. In 1996, she managed a large user consultation project in Tower Hamlets and went on to develop the Disability Options Team, an inter-disciplinary service for people with physical disability, which gained national recognition. From this work, she developed an interest in user consultation, disability equality and inter-disciplinary working. The client stories from this period of Karen’s career still inspire her commitment to transform healthcare through taking a client-centred approach.

Karen began here career when she qualified as a Chartered Physiotherapist in 1985 and went onto specialise in musculoskeletal therapy. She became a Fellow of the Society of Orthopaedic Medicine in 1994, and taught at under-graduate and post-graduate levels in both Orthopaedic Medicine and Hydrotherapy.

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