» Confidence in Healthcare Accreditation: More than just a gut feeling

04 April, 2016

The Functional Gut Clinic was established in 2013 with the aim of consolidating knowledge, expertise and technological advances in neurogastroenterology.  Through its four clinics across London and Kent, the Functional Gut Clinic seeks to create new opportunities for the accurate diagnosis and treatment of patients in a complex clinical area.  Outlining the clinic’s role, its Consultant Clinical Director Dr Anthony Hobson PhD said: “It may seem like a weird comparison but I like to think of what we do being analogous to what happens when we want to buy a car.  You can find a car that looks perfectly good, without any obvious defects, but when you take it for a test drive it may be too slow, too fast or just plain old unreliable and unpredictable.  The problem is not in how the car looks but how it functions and you can only find that out by testing it.  The same thing applies to the human gut.  The gut looks fine but it’s not functioning properly and that is what we test at The Functional Gut Clinic.”

Putting such a complex area into context is very important if treatment is to be effective and patients are to have confidence in the diagnosis, as Dr Hobson explains:  “Despite functional gut disorders being extremely common, diagnosing the cause of these symptoms and allocating effective treatment is difficult. The lack of a firm diagnosis and treatment strategy can be extremely worrying for patients. At our clinic we offer neurogastroenterology specialist and advanced diagnostics to further investigate these symptoms. 

“We use state of the art technology to assess all aspects of gut function and try to bring together information from a patient’s medical history with their symptoms, physiological profile and behaviour in order to come up with a definitive diagnosis.  This then enables their Doctor to prescribe the correct treatment and manage their patient’s condition effectively.  The procedures we perform can be mildly uncomfortable and sometimes intimate, so patients often feel anxious and vulnerable.  An important part of our service is to reassure patients that they are receiving the best quality care available to them.  After all if a patient is calm and relaxed then the results we obtain are much better for all parties.”

IQIPS: Setting standards for quality

In 2014, the Functional Gut Clinic became the first gastrointestinal organisation to be accredited under the Improving Quality in Physiological Services (IQIPS) programme sponsored by Professor Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England and hosted by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). Accreditation is delivered and managed by The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).  The  IQIPS programme has been developed to improve, promote and recognise good quality practice across eight physiological disciplines within the IQIPS programme; audiology, cardiac physiology, gastrointestinal physiology, neurophysiology, ophthalmic and vision science, respiratory and sleep physiology, urodynamics and vascular science.

The RCP also develops and maintains the IQIPS standards supported by an expert group of healthcare scientists, patients, doctors and other healthcare professionals who are involved in physiological services.  These standards describe a good physiological service provider with the capability to ensure that all patients consistently receive high quality diagnosis and care, delivered by competent staff working in safe environments.

UKAS is the National Accreditation Body (NAB) for the UK.  Its role is to assess certification, inspection, testing and calibration services to international standards.  As such, UKAS has been contracted by the RCP to deliver accreditation assessment and accreditation services for the IQIPS programme. 

One of the chief aims of the IQIPS programme is to raise the profile of physiological services across organisations, with commissioners and patients alike.  At the same time, IQIPS seeks to validate and recognise success as well as drive up quality, by aspiring towards excellence and the sharing of good practice in physiological services. This has been particularly important to the gastrointestinal specialism, as Dr Hobson highlights.  “The services provided by the Functional Gut Clinic and other GI Physiology services are complementary to conventional GI diagnostics and add value to the patient and Doctor experience.  Therefore, it is very important to make sure we are performing to the highest standards.  We are very proud of becoming the first GI Physiology Service to obtain the UKAS/IQIPS standard and will wear it as a badge of honour.”

Internal organisational benefits

In addition to reassuring patients by demonstrating competence, the process of becoming accredited by IQIPS can also bring many benefits to the organisation itself.  These include the streamlining and improving of practices, as Dr Hobson continues: “The IQIPS process gave us the opportunity to open ourselves up to a thorough inspection, receive valuable and constructive input from the IQIPS team on how we could make our service even better, and then implement these improvements.”

Despite the intricacy and robust nature of the assessment process, Dr Hobson believes that reaching the IQIPS standard is an achievable and worthwhile prospect other healthcare organisations should aspire too.  “The process may seem daunting at first but the support available from the IQIPS team is never far away and at the end of the process you can feel proud that what you are doing is meeting the highest possible standards.”

Dr Hobson is encouraging peers to consider IQIPS accreditation as he believes it will ensure that standards of clinical practice are up to date throughout the industry.  He said.  “At some centres where accreditation is not high on the agenda the standards of operation may be lower.  By going through, and hopefully achieving IQIPS accreditation, more centres will be able to improve and update their practices, raising standards across the board.  Meeting the highest possible standards is something we should all aim for as professionals and as a discipline.”



 Dr Anthony Hobson PhD, Consultant Clinical Director & Samantha Leach, Senior Gastro-Instestinal Physiologist & Clinical Manager