Interview – Lord Lindsay, UKAS chairman

It’s last year’s news, but this is how the system works:

Express Interview: Lord Lindsay, UKAS chairman

QWExpress talks to Lord Lindsay, chairman of the UK Accreditation Service, about what 2011 holds and how UKAS is working to promote the quality agenda

What are UKAS’ plans for the forthcoming year?
2011 promises to be one of UKAS’ most challenging years in terms of workload and demands on resources. We are currently working to replace our entire IT infrastructure, to streamline business processes and to offer more efficient services to our customers.

Secondly, we will also be making significant improvements to the service provided by our certification section and to implement greater rigour in our application of accreditation in developing countries. Following the acquisition of Clinical Pathology Accreditation (CPA) in 2009, we will also be focusing on identifying synergies between UKAS and CPA to deliver improved services and cost savins.

Finally, greater awareness of accreditation remains a key priority. There is without doubt a greater recognition and understanding across target audiences of the relevance of accreditation, but we will be continuing to invest time and resource to further increase awareness across government, local authorities and business.

How is UKAS working with the UK government to ensure it is engaging with the quality agenda? 
UKAS has a productive engagement programme with government departments, regulators, agencies and other parts of the public sector. Bilateral discussions with individual departments and regulators about specific projects remain the key element of this dialogue.

In the run up to the 2010 general election, we met with the main political parties and all recognized the relevance of an increased role for UKAS accreditation to deliver increased government efficiencies and savings, better regulation and greater decentralisation. Since then, we have progressed these discussions with the coalition government.

Underpinning our engagement with government has been our continued close liaison with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Given the recent EU regulation on accreditation and international agreements on mutual recognition, accreditation is becoming more widely used as a tool for regulators throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

Can you tell us more about the planned review into accreditation and how it can cut bureaucracy?
Since the election, UKAS has engaged with the government with a view to identify areas where accreditation can have a beneficial impact. At the request of the prime minister, Lord Young was asked to carry out a review into the potential for the wider use of accreditation to reduce bureaucracy and regulation. UKAS is currently waiting to find out who will carry out this review following Lord Young’s departure.

UKAS recently disbanded its policy advisory committee and created two new steering bodies, what prompted this move? And what do you hope it will achieve?
The policy advisory committee (PAC) was created after the establishment of UKAS, as the main forum for stakeholders to provide advice on matters relating to the operation of accreditation in the UK. The PAC had 29 members and met three times a year, discussing issues such as the delivery of new accreditation services, the impact on UKAS of agreements with third parties, the direction of UKAS’ international and awareness activities and the impact of the new European framework for accreditation.

In recent years, with our expansion into new areas, such as the health sector, it has been recognised that the PAC needed to adapt to allow wider participation in these important discussions. It was therefore agreed to expand the PAC into a new policy advisory forum (PAF) with up to 50 member organisations. The PAF will meet once a year to provide high-level strategy advice and will be supported by a smaller policy advisory council, which will meet more regularly to discuss the more detailed issues such as new accreditation opportunities. The first meeting of the PAF is planned for March 2011.

How is UKAS working with other international accreditation bodies to tackle the problem of unaccredited certification to management systems standards?
UKAS’ international activities includes participation in committees tasked with the promotion of accredited certification at the European and global level. For example, UKAS has been instrumental in the launch of a global survey to identify the value of accredited certification and has worked closely with stakeholders such as ISO to promote its uptake. These committees have also produced promotional material to enable accreditation and conformity assessment bodies to promote accredited certification.

At a domestic level, UKAS continues to invest a significant amount of time and money into the UKAS awareness campaign, which has the objective of raising awareness of accreditation in industry and government, so organizations can take informed decisions on which certification bodies to use.

The UKAS accreditation awareness campaign was launched 10 years ago, has it achieved what you hoped for? What are your plans for the campaign for 2011?
The awareness campaign was launched in 2000 with the objective of strengthening accreditation in the UK. Recognising the national interest in raising awareness of accreditation within government and business, ministers agreed to provide funding to match UKAS’ budget. It was also recognised that it would be a long and difficult task to achieve the desired levels of awareness.

Since its launch, the campaign has driven up levels of awareness as a result of continued support from BIS, greater engagement by accredited organizations and stakeholders. Independent market research, carried out a bi-annually, has confirmed a greater awareness of accreditation and a deeper understanding of its value. Although the campaign has achieved significant progress, there is still a need for continued work to ensure that this is maintained. We are looking to build on our growing network of contacts and relationships in the year ahead.

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