Most applications for accreditation are decided on the basis of written submissions only, but in some cases we decide a visit is necessary. The reasons can include:
- Concerns raised by any party about training quality;
- Specialties in which a significant number of training centres have experienced difficulties;
- Departments new to training at postgraduate level, or in the specialty concerned;
- A pattern of trainees in difficulty, exiting the programme or failing final assessment.
In some cases, departments may be selected for a panel visit randomly, for quality assurance purposes. An accreditation panel visit may be required in order to decide your application for accreditation. We might also decide a panel visit is needed to a department that already has accreditation, because of new information.
Aims of the visit
A panel visit should not be seen as a negative for your department. The main aim is to find out all we can about the training you offer. Our panels do not set out to exclude departments from training. We will share best practice, and give advice and guidance where possible.
Spirit of the event
Panel visits are an opportunity to have an open and frank conversation on progress of training and discuss any obstacles that may be preventing a positive training experience. We do not want the event to be adversarial, and you do not need to feel defensive. We appreciate the pressures you are working under to deliver your service. Our only concern is to achieve the best training environment possible.
Pre visit and documentation
Ahead of any visit you will be provided with the name and contact details of the lead member of staff for the event, who will be able to respond to any queries. They will confirm the documentation that will be required to be submitted ahead of the visit, with the associated timescales.
The visiting panel normally consists of:
- A clinical expert in the specialty concerned, usually a senior scientist with a thorough knowledge of the programme
- A lay representative, who provides a patient-focused perspective
- A member of staff from the NSHCS, who is responsible for organising the visit, agenda, conduct of the visit and writing the report post visit
Others may attend as observers. They might include:
- A representative from the local Health Education England Quality team
- A commissioner from Health Education England (responsible for agreeing commissioned placements for healthcare science trainees)
- A representative of the Academy for Healthcare Science
- A representative from UKAS
We will notify you if there are any observers attending. The panel will seek assurances on a range of areas. The essential issues are specified in the agenda. However, unforeseen questions will sometimes arise and the panel may pursue anything relevant that comes up in discussion.
The room for the panel visit needs to comfortably accommodate the panel (usually three to five in total) and the trust attendees, so that all can actively participate in the discussions without any distractions. It should be a private room where the panel can be conducted behind closed doors. As a minimum, there should be enough table space for the whole panel, with room for note-taking and laptops, and access to a power supply. The trust should determine the maximum number of representatives who will be in the room at any time (usually up to fifteen or so for plenary sessions) and ensure that there is adequate seating. We know there is often a lack of space in a department to accommodate a meeting of this size. If you do not have a suitable room in the department, please arrange for the panel to take place elsewhere on the site: for example, most trusts will have an education centre or suite of meeting rooms.
Hospitality – if possible, please provide the panel with tea/coffee/water throughout the day, and a working lunch. Sometimes the panel arrange to meet with Trainee(s) over lunch, and it would be welcome if lunch is provided for all. If this is not feasible, please ensure the lead officer is aware of this prior to the visit.
We ask that representatives of senior management are present, in order to assure the panel that the training is fully supported by the trust.
The chair will feed back the outcomes of the event to the team.
The outcomes can be:
- Decline accreditation
Normally, accreditation will be granted, with or without conditions and recommendations. If accreditation is granted, the duration will be five years from the date of the report, or the date on which any conditions are met. In the event that accreditation is declined, further discussion will be needed to decide the next steps for the trainees (e.g. withdrawing trainees from the department and moving them elsewhere). Any such decisions will require full discussion between the trust, the commissioners from Health Education England, and the National School of Healthcare Science.
Conditions are actions without which accreditation could not be granted. If the panel decides to accredit your department with conditions, you will be given a date by which the conditions must be met and, if they are not met by the due date, accreditation maybe declined or removed.
Recommendations are actions of changes the panel consider will improve training in your department. They are offered to be helpful to you and your trainees. You are not obliged to follow recommendations, but you should consider them carefully and provide a response to the National School of Healthcare Science.
Where the panel see notably good practice or positive characteristics in the training you offer, they will commend it in the report.
Report the outcome(s) from the event will form the basis of a formal report from the National School of Healthcare Science. When the report has been agreed by the panel it will be sent to the main contact in the trust, as identified in correspondence. We would prefer this to be the Head of Department. The report should normally be sent to you within four weeks of the visit. In the meantime, whilst the report is being confirmed, the lead from the National School of Healthcare Science will send to the team an email of outcomes, normally within 3 working days of the visit.
We ask you to circulate the report in your trust.
As a minimum, we would expect it to be copied to:
- Staff members and trainees who participated in the event
- Your Divisional Director
- Your trust’s Lead Healthcare Scientist
- Your trust’s Learning and Development team
The report will be copied to the local Health Education England Quality and Commissioning team. All accreditation reports are reviewed by the Academy for Healthcare Science, the body that quality assures the National School of Healthcare Science accreditation processes.
If in doubt about any aspect of the accreditation visit, please speak to your contact in the National School of Healthcare Science. If during the day any member of the team is unsure about any question being asked, please seek clarification from the panel.