UKAS year on

It’s been a little over a year since we achieved IQIPS accreditation last year at five of our eight vascular sites. It was a complex process which involved a lot of hard work from my team completing the mandatory actions and making progress on the recommended actions that came out of the initial full assessment.

A leverage for change

Unfortunately the assessment wasn’t all smooth sailing, as UKAS found major non-conformities in the facilities (or more accurately lack of them) at three of our eight sites. As a result, we removed those three sites from our application. This was doubly frustrating as not only had we done as much as we could to get them up to scratch before the assessment, their removal was solely down to an issue that we do not have direct control over. However, the mood was lifted considerably when we were delighted to receive our certificate of accreditation in June last year.

Turning a negative into a positive, we have used the accreditation report issued by UKAS to instigate change at those three sites with unsatisfactory facilities:

Once the accommodation has been improved at all three of these sites we will apply to get them included in our scope of accreditation this year. Having the accreditation report has made this possible; it has been a real leverage for change!

Increased profile

Holding UKAS accreditation makes us stand out and identifies us as market leaders. Professionally, I was asked to present our IQIPS accreditation experiences to our professional body – the Society of Vascular Technology (SVT) in November last year. In addition, I was awarded the “Ann Donald Vascular scientist award” by the SVT for the work on UKAS accreditation, so gaining accreditation has definitely raised our profile amongst our peers. From a business point of view, we have recently been approached by venture capitalists wanting to make an investment because they have seen us on the UKAS website.

Sailing on the winds of change

At the moment across the country, a massive re-organisation and centralisation of vascular services is underway. In Manchester alone there are three NHS hospital trusts vying for vascular centre status. The Vascular Studies Unit at South Manchester holding UKAS/IQIPS accreditation gives us a real competitive advantage and hopefully will assist our host trust in becoming the vascular centre.

Having UKAS/IQIPS accreditation also helps our vascular laboratories to be compliant for CQC registration.

Morale and service

Our staff know that they work in accredited laboratories and that these are the first accredited laboratories in the country – this gives them a sense of pride and has increased staff morale. It has given us more confidence in our vascular services and has encouraged reflective learning. These improvements increase job satisfaction and decrease both stagnation and burn out.

Going through the year one surveillance process gives you the chance to review all the work you completed for the accreditation. It enables you to have analytical view of the service and ensures that all your recommended actions have been completed and are now included in the assessment.

Overall, I have to say it has have been a positive experience and I feel our service has “grown up” through the process. I would recommend any vascular laboratory to engage with this process and hopefully become accredited. We have found becoming accredited has driven up the quality of our services and hopefully will enhance the awareness of vascular ultrasound as a profession across the UK.

Onwards and upwards

Twenty years ago the SVT was starting the process of individual accreditation. Two decades later SVT is still the badge of quality we are all aspiring to and achieving. There have been rumblings about laboratory accreditation for quite some time. It is now here and in the years to come it will be rare to work in a non-accredited laboratory.

Although gaining UKAS accreditation has been hard work it definitely has been worth it. Hopefully by the next assessment at year two we will have started the process of getting all eight of our vascular sites included within our scope of accreditation.

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