» The Accreditation Decision-Making Process
A core principle of accreditation decision making is to ensure that the appropriate checks and balances are in place to enable UKAS to grant accreditation, or to make additions or reductions to accreditation, on a technically robust and consistent basis.
On completion of the assessment activity, the UKAS team will make a recommendation to an independent decision-maker. A recommendation does not confirm that accreditation is awarded or removed.
This initial step ensures that the assessment was conducted competently, fairly and consistently and that the records of the assessment support the recommendation made by the assessment team. Some key elements that a decision maker will be looking for include:
- Has the scope been sampled in adequate depth and breadth?
- Has accreditation criteria been assigned consistently?
- Are the non-conformities appropriate, have relevant actions been agreed and are all non-conformities cleared?
- Do the conclusions of the assessment team support the recommendation?
- Does the proposed schedule of accreditation match the scope assessed?
The decision making process is an essential tool for UKAS to ensure that it is awarding accreditation in a competent and consistent manner and that the accreditation can be relied upon.
Many assessments or actions that result in alterations, additions or reductions to scopes of accreditation require a decision from an independent. Typical activities include:
- Initial Grant of Accreditation
- Extensions to Scope
- Renewal of Accreditation
- Addition of New Critical Locations
- Suspensions or Withdrawals of Accreditation
UKAS’ decision making process is split down into three parts; Contract Review, Provisional Decision and Final Decision.
Contract Review is carried out by an Assessment Manager before the assessment, to review the scope of activity. The Assessment Manager will put forward a proposed assessment team, an estimate of the effort required, and an assessment approach for the decision maker to review and authorise. The contract review process takes 2-4 weeks on average.
Provisional Decision is carried out following completion of all assessment activity, but prior to the closure of any non-conformities. This stage of the decision process is the most involved as it determines whether the assessment has been conducted appropriately and if the recommendation is supported. The majority of cases are generally completed within 1 – 2 months of completion of the assessment. However, provisional decisions for complex cases can take several days to complete.
The Final Decision is conducted following a successful provisional decision and closure of all non-conformities (where relevant). A letter confirming the outcome of the decision is sent to the customer by the decision maker and changes to the schedules of accreditation are published on the UKAS website within 24-48 hours. Final decisions are generally completed within 2-4 weeks of closure of non-conformities.
UKAS conducts around 2000 decisions annually and uses over 40 authorised individuals, generally Accreditation Managers or Senior Assessment Managers. On average, 15% are queried with the assessment team and may require additional supporting information. Less than 1% require rework that involves the customer.
This decision-making process is set out in ISO/IEC 17011, the standard that accreditation bodies operate to.