» Views of a Radiology Assessor

Dr David Parker, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, North Wales

Clinical Radiology is all about its patients. Unlike departments who receive pathological specimens in bottles, we receive patients, their families and carers into our departments in large numbers. We see them in their thousands - in my department 3000 patients a week - and we register nearly all our catchment population over a decade. Many of them are frail, frightened or hurt. Delivering a service to both the referring clinicians and their patients involves complex, expensive and potentially dangerous technology and high levels of personal skill, but also requires a human touch. The standards collectively describe the attributes of a well run service with attention to the needs of its patients and their clinicians, its staff, its expertise, its equipment and the environment we share with our patients.

I regard the standard as an agenda for improvement, with the scrutiny of external professional peer review, lay representation and accreditation managers from UKAS framing a holistic and constructive method to raise standards, quality assure our services, and provide confidence to our users.

What have I gained from my role as a technical assessor working with two NHS trusts -one in the south and one in the north of England? In my day job as a doctor and manager I live and work with many constraints. Time, money and other people's expectations to name but a few. When I work with another service before and during an assessment, I see how others tackle the same sort of issues. Sometimes they need to improve, but often they surprise and challenge my own view of what is possible or desirable. I can no longer use the defence that something is impossible in my own department when I have seen it working somewhere else. I find myself identifying weaknesses in my own hospital which don't meet the standards we demand elsewhere and am challenged to do something about them. Having initially suspended our pursuit of accreditation due to massive local organisational change merging nine legacy organisations into one health board, I still hope that one day we will be in a position to demonstrate that we too are able to meet the standard.

As a technical assessor you work as one of a team, and using both lay and professional colleagues as a resource. I was in the first cohort of technical assessors to be trained, and it was clear that much thought had gone into the delivery of that training. Technical and lay assessors are trained together, preparing for the time they will work together on the ground. Don't expect the finest of hotels when undertaking the site visits. Do expect to have to put some effort into getting under the skin of another organisation. But expect to return to your own service with a revitalised sense of purpose to do the best for your patients. After all, I hope that is why we turn up to work each day.