IQIPS v2 2020– An improved standard and assessment process for physiological services
Introduction to the IQIPS Standard
Developed by the Royal College of Physicians in conjunction with UKAS, the Improving Quality in Physiological Services (IQIPS) standard remains the UK’s only nationally recognised accreditation scheme for physiological services. Fully endorsed by NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), UKAS accreditation to the IQIPS standard ensures patients receive consistently high-quality services, tests, examinations and procedures, by competent staff working in safe environments. In addition to driving up the quality of patient care, the IQIPS scheme helps deliver efficiency and productivity to physiological healthcare providers.
Since the launch of IQIPS in 2012, UKAS has accredited around 100 physiological service providers from both the public and private sectors, covering seven of the eight physiological specialisms included within the standard with a pilot programme to implement assessment for the vision science discipline in 2021.
Adapting to healthcare needs
Accreditation standards are reviewed every 4-5 years, so in 2018 the Accreditation Clinical Advisory Group (ACAG) began looking at ways of revising the standard so it could work better for CCGs, clinicians and most importantly patients. The review’s main aims were to reduce process duplication and align IQIPS with other international healthcare standards, such as the widely adopted ISO 15189 medical laboratory standard.
The ACAG published the IQIPS Standard v2:2020 in October2020, with the most significant change being the replacement of individual specialism standards with one universal standard that encompasses all specialisms. From April 2021, all UKAS accreditation applications are made to the new standard with transition of existing accredited customer commencing from October 2021. In addition to revising the technical requirements of the standard, the UKAS assessment process itself has also been significantly updated to become more streamlined and efficient.
UKAS has taken the opportunity to consider how best to manage the accreditation cycle for customers, whilst allowing UKAS to continue to meet the requirements of accreditation bodies. The traditional UKAS accreditation model for all sectors revolves around a four-yearly cycle of assessments, usually onsite including documentation/evidence reviews. This model was adapted for the launch of the IQIPS scheme, with the introduction of a web-based evidence submission tool. Using the tool allows UKAS assessors to review evidence of conformity in advance of the assessment and enable remote only assessment every other year, reducing the impact on the customer and therefore the patient and facilitating the best use of UKAS technical assessors. UKAS is currently undertaking a pilot project to develop a UKAS portal that will replace the IQIPS-only web-based submission tool with a universal system for all UKAS sectors in the meantime the IQIPS scheme is now transferring evidence submission into Sharepoint. Using the UKAS portal, customers will be able to provide documents both prior to assessments and for improvement actions, further minimising the time they spend away from their day job.
The IQIPS scheme has always adopted a risk-based approach to the assessment structure with regards requirement for onsite assessment but remaining compliant with ISO 17011 requirements. To help safeguard both staff and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, UKAS is currently performing all assessments remotely. Once UKAS policy permits onsite visits, UKAS Assessment Managers will determine the most appropriate way of assessing using remote, blended or onsite approaches determined by the risk-based strategy and defined assessment programme for each customer to assess ongoing conformity and management of non-conformities. Customers considered low risk are likely alternate each year between onsite visits and remote or blended assessments, whilst medium to high risk customers will continue with the annual onsite assessments. Remote assessments include offsite review of documentation
Aspects and evidence
One of the most significant changes is that not all of the standard is assessed each year. The standard requirements must be assessed in their entirety at initial and reassessment but during the remaining 3 years the formal assessment plan will determine what evidence is required determined by the assessment programme set for each customer. Whilst UKAS still needs to assess all accredited activities and standard requirements across the four-year cycle, IQIPS scheme customers no longer need to provide evidence of compliance with all aspects of the standard on an annual basis.
Around six weeks in advance of each annual assessment, customers will be sent an assessment plan. This specifies the documentary evidence that needs to be uploaded into SharePoint within the following four weeks. It will also give details of what activities, interviews, documentation reviews and locations that customers will need to schedule as part of the assessment, which will occur a maximum of two weeks after the documentation submission deadline. This gives customers more flexibility and involvement in the planning of each assessment day, allowing it to run more efficiently and effectively.
A core list of evidence relating to patient feedback/complaints, audits, incidents, management of non-conformities, outcome measures, competency and risk management will be reviewed each year. However, by sampling the evidence required across the accredited activities and standard requirements each year, the new process limits the amount of time and effort required by customers, allowing them to spend more time with their patients.
The changes embodied within the IQIPS standard v2:2020 have retained its physiology specialisms whilst aligning it more closely with other leading healthcare standards, which is a stepping stone towards multi-disciplinary accreditation assessments. The review also provided an opportunity for the accreditation assessment process to be strengthened and streamlined, whilst maintaining a format and tools that are familiar to clinicians. In addition to providing customers with more flexibility in the planning process, the draw on valuable clinical time has been reduced, allowing the focus to be maintained on improving patient welfare.
The AskIQIPS mailbox is available for all IQIPS related enquiries, or you can contact your Assessment Manager for advice on training or general support. Alternatively, for clarification on any of the above:
Laura Booth (Senior Assessment Manager, Healthcare) – [email protected]
Ben Courtney (Section Head, Healthcare) – [email protected]
The IQIPS Standard v2:2020: https://www.ukas.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/FINAL-IQIPS-standard-2020.pdf
Technical bulletin summarising the main changes: https://www.ukas.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2020.10.08-Technical-Bulletin-Publication-of-the-IQIPS-Standard-v2-2020.pdf
Outline of the UKAS assessment process, GEN-1 https://www.ukas.com/wp-content/uploads/schedule_uploads/759164/GEN-1-General-Principles-for-the-Assessment-of-CABs-by-UKAS-1.pdf