Young Female Patient Talking To Nurse In Emergency Room

The quality of health and social care services is under constant and close scrutiny.  Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has recently acknowledged that accreditation and peer review processes already play an important part in stimulating and supporting quality improvements. 

The role of UKAS accreditation within the health and social care sector has also recently been formally recognised in a joint policy agreement released by the Department of Health (DH) and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The DH/BIS policy agreement highlights that “Accreditation increases trust in conformity assessment and thus reinforces the mutual recognition of products, processes, services, systems, persons and bodies across the EU”.  It goes on to state that where new quality assurance schemes are planned in the NHS or social care, particularly where there is interest in schemes awarding certification or accreditation, their initiators should work with The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) from an early stage to ensure that the schemes are sufficiently rigorous to meet EU and UK accreditation requirements.

The drive for accreditation in the health sector is mirrored in the NHSE business plan for 2014-15 to 2016-17.  A key deliverable of the plan is to “ensure more than 70% of all scientific and diagnostic services are part of accreditation programmes and demonstrate robust quality assurance measures by end of March 2015.” Whilst this may appear to be an ambitious target, as the UK’s National Accreditation Body, UKAS already underpins quality in the delivery of a number of health and social care services.  These include pathology, diagnostic imaging (ISAS), point of care testing and physiological services (IQIPS).  A pilot scheme for the accreditation of inspections of residential adult social care providers began in July, with the first accreditations due in December 2015.

Sponsored by Professor Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England at DH, the IQIPS programme was created by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) with the aim of improving the quality of services, care and safety for patients undergoing physiological science service tests, examinations and procedures.  It covers a range of eight physiological diagnostic specialisms including audiology, cardiac physiology, gastrointestinal physiology, neurophysiology, ophthalmic and vision science, respiratory and sleep physiology, urodynamics and vascular science. Highlighting the benefits of the scheme, Professor Hill said.  “IQIPS puts physiological scientific services at the leading edge of continuous quality improvement and quality assurance in the NHS.  It provides a mark of quality for commissioners, providers and users of service with patient quality outcomes at its core.”

Independent assessment and accreditation is a key part of the IQIPS programme and UKAS has been contracted by RCP to deliver the national assessment and accreditation service for all eight physiological diagnostic specialisms.  The first IQIPS accreditation was granted to Action for Deafness for adult hearing services at the beginning of 2013.  Since then a further 15 audiology services providers from across the public and private sector have achieved IQIPS accreditation. UKAS is working closely with the RCP on a plan for the staged roll out of accreditation to each specialism.  This year Independent Vascular Services (IVS) Ltd became the UK’s first vascular laboratory to gain ISAS accreditation for its range of vascular ultrasound services.  Richard Pole, Operations Director at IVS said:  “Achieving this badge of quality is something we are particularly proud of, as it represents independent external recognition and affirmation of our good practices, giving confidence to both patients and health care professionals alike.  We have found that becoming accredited has driven up the quality of our services and supports the sharing of good practice.  It will also hopefully enhance the awareness of vascular ultrasound as a profession across the UK, and could be used as leverage for change.”

For further information on the IQIPS programme please visit Brochure.pdf