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Accreditation agility

Ben Courtney, the Healthcare Section Head at UKAS, outlines the service’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When a mandatory lockdown to contain the transmission of COVID-19 was announced by the UK Government in March 2020, organisations rushed to implement changes to their operations, policies and procedures in order to continue work with minimum possible disruption.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) had an increased responsibility to ensure that confidence could be maintained in the quality of pathology services at a time of unprecedented uncertainty and change. 

To support healthcare services impacted by the pandemic, UKAS, following agreement with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) and the devolved nations, allowed accredited pathology customers a six-month postponement of assessments. Where assessments did take place, all but the most essential site visits were cancelled and converted to remote assessments. Many applications for conducting such assessments were trialled – Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, for example, but eventually Microsoft Teams was selected as being most suitable to provide the necessary flexibility and resilience. Additional resources were implemented for file sharing (e.g. dropbox), but SharePoint has become our standard application for transferring large volumes of information.

Remote assessment

Policies and procedures were rapidly developed to support remote assessment in extraordinary circumstances (UKAS Technical Policy Statement TPS73, for example), which were then adopted by international bodies, such as the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA) into their range of guidance and support documents.

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Image credit |iStock

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