UKAS provides the accreditation process for medical laboratories and testing organisations. It is responsible for delivering a globally recognised assessment system which ensures international standards are met by individual organisations.
Matt Hancock, the Secretary for Health and Social Care has said that during the Covid-19 (SARS-Cov-2) pandemic ‘good quality testing can help provide us with certainty’ and is ‘a big part of how we’re going to defeat this disease’. Consequently, helping laboratories deliver high quality, reliable tests is a priority for UKAS. It has been closely involved in supporting Public Health England, the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care in developing accreditation processes that are adjusted to current conditions without compromising standards.
As part of this initiative, a new remote assessment process has been introduced. This maintains the vigilance of assessment under the new Covid-19 restrictions. It also ensures any accredited laboratory or organisations involved in supporting the Health and Social Care sector can maintain its status without interruption, where it is safe and appropriate to do so.
Due to the emergency and the public health demand it was accepted that this testing for Covid-19 had to commence at pace and before accreditation could be awarded. To help the government’s effort to ensure patients and the public have access to reliable testing, UKAS is implementing a simplified fast track application process for existing accredited laboratories to extend their scope of accreditation. Accreditation for Covid-19 introduces a vital level of quality assurance to the process and demonstrates the competence of a laboratory to perform valid test procedures and provide reliable results. This is an important part of meeting the Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s five-part plan to deliver tests ‘that have got to work’.
UKAS is receiving applications and enquiries from laboratories that wish to gain accreditation for Covid-19, both for the antigen and antibody testing. UKAS is working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHSE and PHE to ensure its accreditation activities are appropriately prioritised to support the national effort.
UKAS is also providing advice and expertise to DHSC as a member of the Covid-19 Testing Capacity Review group. This is a group of experts that is tasked with evaluating the offers received from laboratories to enhance the testing capacity in the coming months.
Lorraine Turner, Technical Director, who is leading this work for UKAS. comments: “Accreditation underpins quality across a wide range of healthcare scientific and diagnostic services, and I am delighted that this important role is being recognised in the fight against Covid-19. UKAS continues to work closely with government to ensure that patients and clinicians can have confidence that accredited testing services are delivered with the highest levels of competence, quality and reliability. I am proud of the important work that everyone in UKAS is doing to ensure this trust is maintained during these unprecedented times, by progressing Covid-19 testing accreditation applications as quickly and safely as possible.”