It’s been a little over a year since we achieved IQIPS accreditation at five of our eight vascular sites. The initial assessment was a complex process which involved a lot of hard work from my team to complete the mandatory actions and make progress on the recommended actions that came out of the assessment. We were delighted when we received our certificate of accreditation in June 2014.

Leverage for change

Unfortunately our initial assessment wasn’t all smooth sailing. 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.  

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

  • a new dedicated scan room has been re-furbished at our North Manchester laboratory giving us a separate office and scan room and increased our clinical capacity.
  • a whole new department has been found for our vascular service at the Royal Oldham Hospital, which has been operational since April 2015.
  • the accommodation has already been improved at our Bolton laboratory and the Trust will be providing our facilities with better office space.

Once the accommodation has been improved at all three of these sites we will apply to include them in our scope of accreditation.  The Assessment Report has made all of this possible; it has been a real leverage for change!

Increased profile

UKAS accreditation makes us stand out and identifies us as market leaders.  Professionally, I was asked to present our IQIPS accreditation experience 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; 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 IQIPS accreditation gives us a real competitive advantage and hopefully will assist our host trust in becoming the vascular centre.

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.

The year one surveillance process gives you the chance to review all the work you completed during the initial assessment for accreditation.  It enables you to have an 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 become accredited.  We have found that accreditation 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 surveillance assessment at year two we will have started the process of getting all eight of our vascular sites included within our scope of accreditation.