2020 marks the 25th anniversary of UKAS, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, during which time it has grown to deliver confidence and assurance across a wide range of sectors and activities, providing quality, safety and consumer protection in many aspects of our business and personal lives.
The world has changed a great deal over the last quarter century, with the widespread adoption of mobile technologies, advent of social media and advances in healthcare to name but a few. Throughout this time, the need for confidence and trust in business, products and services has grown exponentially. As the sole National Accreditation Body, appointed by government, UKAS has responded to meet the varying needs of the many diverse industries and regulatory environments within which it operates. As a result, accreditation has continued to deliver confidence in the quality and integrity of goods and services, allowing them to be trusted regardless of the prevailing social, political and economic conditions.
The past six months in particular have shown the important role that accreditation plays. The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a huge challenge to governments, economies and healthcare systems across the world, and placed extraordinary pressure on the testing industry. By working closely with the UK government, health services and laboratory industry, UKAS demonstrated its agility by quickly developing innovative fast-track application and robust assessment processes. This has allowed accredited laboratories to extend their scope of accreditation to cover Covid-19 diagnostic testing, thereby meeting the national need, whilst ensuring that quality, integrity and confidence in results is maintained.
A 25th anniversary is a good time to recognise what has been achieved by the creation of a national accreditation body. Today there are few industry sectors that are not reliant on accredited services in some shape or form. Accreditation is now the accepted process that underpins government policy; regulatory requirements; sector specific schemes; specification processes; supply chain control and management and consumer protection. It will also have a key role to play in helping UK plc successfully address both the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.
Industry 4.0, AI and Blockchain are just a few examples of where UKAS is already working closely with stakeholders on ways accreditation can support the development and adoption of these technologies in a safe, reliable and trusted environment. Similarly, through its participation in the IAF’s and ILAC’s international mutual recognition arrangements, UKAS is ensuring that products and services continue to be ‘accredited once, accepted everywhere’. This lowers international barriers, offering UK businesses a degree of certainty in the global marketplace.
UKAS would not be in this trusted position without the continued support and commitment of its dedicated colleagues, clients, stakeholders and Government, who together have helped UKAS maintain development of the high standards that have been achieved over the last 25 years. The expertise, culture, passion and teamwork that have embodied UKAS in the past have created the platform for its continued world-leading status and success in the future. Whilst the challenges ahead may look different, the same fundamental strengths and disciplines will be needed as UKAS continues on its ongoing mission to ensure that ‘everything that should be accredited is’.