SEQOHS Accreditation Update from Afar

(Safe, Effective, Quality, Occupational Health Services) SEQOHS Accreditation 2017

I was once a SEQOHS assessor, choosing to do the training and attending London for team meetings etc.  If you look on my website you will find a number of posts about the services.  After a couple of years, I left the service and now I watch from afar.

There are a number of issues that have troubled me lately.

NHS Services

I remember being astonished at how many NHS facilities joined SEQOHS accreditation when I started out as an assessor.  That’s not saying I didn’t agree with it, I certainly did.  I’d run and been part of the NHS OH services for a couple of years. There was then, a three-line whip to become accredited, with the NHS having a special domain (H) all of its own.

So having just counted the figures roughly on the SEQOHS accredited lists, I see that there are about 84 NHS services accredited (identified with the words NHS, Trust, Hospital, Foundation) out of a total of 242.

These 242 are, according to the NHS Confederation:

‘136 acute non-specialist trusts (including 84 foundation trusts) 17 acute specialist trusts (including 16 foundation trusts) 55 mental health trusts (including 43 foundation trusts) 34 community providers (11 NHS trusts, 6 foundation trusts and 17 social enterprises)’

I also counted those NHS establishments now in the process of SEQOHS accreditation and found 33, again, identified by the same keywords of NHS, Trust etc.

One thing I couldn’t tell was if one OH service covered many or a couple of Trusts etc – also, there are some based in Ireland and maybe some in Scotland and Wales?  I am not that good at geography.  But, on my rough calculations, 50% NHS establishments are in the process of or accredited.
My rough calculations, 50% NHS establishments are in the process of, or already accredited.

I’m not sure if numbers of accreditation have met the NHS target or not – certainly, there was a lot of pressure to get NHS OH services on board. However, with only 8 NHS services reaching accreditation in 2016 and 2017, one has to assume that the pressure is off?

Changes in Domains

I drafted the Construction Domain for SEQOHS when I worked at Constructing Better Health and I applied the H Domain of the NHS as an assessor.  Looking at the SEQOHS standards today, I note the H domain (NHS) is integrated into the main body of the standards and the Construction Domain has gone too.  Despite this, there is a whole segment about CBH still on the SEQOHS site and a list of FAQ’s which, to me, simply cannot apply.  If I can’t understand the process with all my insider knowledge, then how can anyone else?

This certainly needs some clarity as CBH has suspended all its OH accreditation while they review their own standards too with no sign when the new Standards are available or new services accredited. Having worked at CBH I am sure there will be some questions about that from those already accredited. But more importantly, what about those wanting to sign up and move forward?  It is just too confusing.

 Search facility

One very good outcome from an enquiry to the SEQOHS new offices and management was adding a search engine box – great result and thank you SEQOHS. Now, I can tell purchasers to go to the accredited services page and enter their postcode to pick up all the relevant OH services for their area.

Physiotherapists

I note physiotherapists are now able to join SEQOHS, although I believe they have some extra time to get their subcontractors in order before the new rules come in about outsourcing work.  The physios have negotiated some extra time to comply with this rule. OH services, however, must use accredited subcontractors.  This will cause huge problems for OH services as many sub-contract their services.

Read the outsourcing policy published by SEQOHS in December 2016

Number under review

One thing that interested me greatly were the number of OH services who are still in the process of accreditation. According to SEQOHS, this is 212.  Interested,  I decided to count how long some of the services have been “in the process” or “working towards” SEQOHS accreditation:

So I counted – and here are my findings:

SEQOHS accreditation in progress and year of registration
SEQOHS accreditation in progress and year of registration – info extracted from SEQOHS website

This shows the number in accreditation and the year they registered.  All of these are still not accredited!

You see we have some OH services working towards SEQOHS accreditation from 2010.

Surely SEQOHS needs to limit the time a business is on the list?  Because actually being on ‘the list for accreditation’ or ‘working towards accreditation’ might easily be used when bidding for a contract. In fact, in my capacity as a strategic company OH adviser, I hear and read this many times for OH services. Sadly it is a way of fudging their accreditation status.

Recent SEQOHS Accreditation

I was curious about how many companies reached SEQOHS accreditation from 2016 and to date.

So again, I counted them.

Excluding the NHS establishments, we have only 17 OH practices/companies being accredited during 2016 and for the first quarter of 2017.

Compare this with 2015, and see that 35 OH services (including NHS services) managed accreditation and we don’t have the excuse that there was not enough interest – have a look at the chart above for the record numbers of those registering to start the SEQOHS accreditation process that year. So it seems that numbers are falling off.

On the website of SEQOHS we have this statement:

Since the launch, the SEQOHS accreditation scheme has rapidly become an integral part of the occupational health service landscape, accepted in both the public and private sectors as the recognised industry standard.

Conclusion

I’m not sure what is happening at SEQOHS. We have great developments with postcode searching for accredited services. But too many OH services remain ‘in process’ – some for over six years. I expected the SEQOHS accreditation system established and thriving by now. Perhaps even gaining momentum, but the figures don’t show this.

I know physiotherapy is part of an OH service yet why are they a special case?  It is confusing.  What is SEQOHS now? There has obviously been a change of policy/management somewhere along the line.

Linked to this, is the special deal physiotherapists have with subcontractors.  I know that many physios’s and OH services rely heavily on subcontractor work when needing extra staff; yet OH must not delegate their work to non-SEQOHS accredited services, whereas physio’s still can. That doesn’t seem fair to me and maybe unworkable with the numbers of OH services accredited now.

I’ve worked in the construction industry for years now and welcomed SEQOHS accreditation for OH services. It made things clearer, especially for the principal contractors.  It gave OH to their tiered subcontractors and they got good quality occupational health services. But now, I note the drastic reduction in numbers applying and 212+ services stuck in the process.  Add to that how OH services are unable to subcontract to those not accredited; might it be time to check what is happening here?

If we are not careful, those 242 services, already accredited, will not see the benefits of continuing.  Then SEQOHS will be in trouble and we will lose a great initiative that promised a lot.

Find out more about SEQOHS accreditation here

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