Most people think of credentialing as a recent factor in the UK market, however it has been in place for decades…we just never had a name for it! Many hospitals have required sales representatives to wend their way down to the procurement department, located often in the farthest outbuilding or nether reaches of the basement, to register in the signing-in book; a practice that many will still recognise today.
However, times are changing, and hospitals are increasingly asking for verifiable evidence of qualifications before allowing industry staff to work in clinical areas. An increased emphasis on patient safety and a laser focus on reducing spend has seen many Trusts employing ‘credentialing’ schemes with appointment systems and increased requirements for training and health & safety.
Procurement departments love the information it provides to help manage spend and prevent clinicians from ordering off-contract or out-of-process. Theatre managers love it as it makes their domain a more controlled environment. Industry has more mixed feelings; a dislike of the bureaucracy and cost that multiple systems and localised requirements bring, and a sense that a barrier to partnership working is being created. It also, however, gives the opportunity to show the high levels of training that industry provided, whilst enhancing the professionalism of our industry.
We must question of course the extent of any risk that industry personnel pose; there have been few reported incidents of harm. At the same time there is a growing reliance on industry to provide technical support during operations, to maintain equipment and increasingly to manage operational aspects of service delivery as the NHS struggles with workforce issues.
Born out of this background, the objective for the Life Science Industry (LSI) Register is to deliver a system that is focused on creating partnership working, not barriers. A single national system with consistent, rigorously applied criteria, jointly developed between NHS and industry is the foundation for mutual trust. While in the short term we hope that this translates into a better credentialing system, our longer-term vision is to alter the perception and actuality of our industry. Having accreditation from the Professional Standards Authority starts us on a journey to a more professional standing and perception of the sector, and individually for our employees. This can only be a good thing for the industry, for companies and for employees.
The HealthTech sector can, and should be, a resource that the NHS can rely upon to support the use of technology. There are already codes of practice in place to govern interactions between industry and healthcare professionals, these however operate at an organisational level, rather than an individual, and it is this area that the LSI Register seeks to address. By focusing on agreed national standards it will enable individual registrants to demonstrate competency in their field and understanding of how their role can impact on the service and service users.
It is early days, but we are proud to be the first such accredited credentialing register. We believe that it provides a strong platform for ongoing interactions with the NHS on a professional-to-professional basis, and on which to further build the reputation of the life science sector.
Andrew Davies, Chair of LSI Registration Council