UKAS Accreditation of Private COVID-19 Testing Providers – Case Study

Meeting the patient’s needs

Alya Shakir is the Managing Director of Harley Street Health Centre, a private medical practice offering a range of services in central London.

Having taken the choice to provide private COVID-19 tests in order to supply demand from their patients, following government announcements regarding minimum standards for COVID-19 testing, Harley Street Health Centre embarked on their journey to accreditation.

UKAS spoke to Alya to find out more about their experience, what accreditation means to them and how it will shape their business in the future.

Breaking ground in new territories

When asked about their first steps, Alya admits that there was a certain amount of trepidation about the process.

“As this was completely new territory for us, initially we were slightly unclear about where to even start.  I contacted UKAS, who provided some good initial guidance and I was also able to speak to Rachel Oakley, an Assessment Manager in the team.

Rachel was incredibly helpful and talked us through the entire process.  We also attended the UKAS webinar for private providers twice, which made us feel more confident about what we were about to embark upon.”

Harley Street Health Centre applied for accreditation in December 2020 and began making steps towards their assessment. The first part of this process was to get to grips with ISO/IEC 15189.  Alya explains how they approached this.

“Initially we were daunted by the document, which was not in a language any of us were familiar with.  However, once we had studied it, we realised it was in plain English.  I had another call with Rachel at UKAS and asked a lot of questions that we had prepared.  This call was incredibly useful, and we really appreciated the opportunity to have one-to-one discussion with an expert, which helped us realise this was achievable at an early stage of the process.”

At this point the team at Harley Street Health Centre conducted a thorough internal review of everything they did in relation to COVID-19, encompassing the management of the clinic, staffing and technical and clinical decision-making.

“The Gap Analysis document that UKAS provided made this review much easier and highlighted the work we needed to do to meet the standard, as well as what we were already doing in line with this, which prevented the need to duplicate work.”

Putting plans into action

Harley Street Health Centre embarked on the creation of a Quality Manual and other over-arching documents, such as the Management System.

“This process helped us realise that while we had already been doing a lot of good things and had quality at the heart of our service, significant improvements could be made by centralising processes, conducting regular management audits and structuring documents and meetings more effectively.  A more informal approach simply doesn’t contribute to continuous improvement in the way we want our clinic to work going forward.”

The assessment process

UKAS asked Alya how the assessment process worked and the impact it had on the team at Harley Street Health Centre.

“Our Assessment Managers had a mixture of expertise and the process worked really well.  Both Assessment Managers were very kind about the fact that we were new to accreditation and recognised we had positive intentions and that the challenge to us was to evidence the work that contributed to these positive outcomes.”

Harley Street Health Centre submitted 150 documents for assessment and demonstrated that they had built a Quality Manual directly from the standard.  The team also worked closely with their analysing laboratory, who were able to assist with the production of more technical documents which would form part of the Quality Manual.

“UKAS were really supportive, not punitive or judgemental at all, but they didn’t waver on the standards!”

Accreditation as opportunity

When asked whether the accreditation process has provided opportunities for the business beyond the provision of COVID-19 testing, Alya was clear that this is just the start.

“We see this as an opportunity to inculcate a culture of continuous improvement throughout the whole business and we are currently working on formalising roles and responsibility in terms of quality in all areas of what we do.

Patients are conscientious about doing their research when they choose their healthcare providers, so having the UKAS accreditation is a very positive step for us in terms of reputation as we are asked if we are UKAS accreditation on a daily basis.

This whole process has been a great opportunity to look radically at what we do with a fresh pair of eyes and the process has become our guiding blueprint for matching everything we do against the relevant standards.”

When asked if she had any tips for other private providers considering accreditation, Alya stated that achieving buy-in from the team was essential, as the accreditation process will impact everyone in terms of resource, which is a process led by the attitudes and perspectives of senior management.  Alya also recommends that providers liaise with the analysis laboratories they use to gain clarity on more technical requirements.

“Ultimately we reframed the accreditation process as an opportunity for improved quality across the board, which has allowed us to feel totally secure in our processes, turning a difficult task into a much more enjoyable experience.”

Harley Street Health Centre were the first UK private clinic to be assessed at Stage 2 and their collaborative and open approach has enabled them to continue the provision of COVID-19 testing and led to overall improvements in quality and best practice, for which UKAS congratulates them.