IT contractors applying for contracts within the NHS, and the wider healthcare industry, can increase their chances of securing work by applying for professional accreditation in health informatics through the UK Council for Health Informatics Professions (UKCHIP).
“IT contractors wishing to be considered to deliver informatics projects in the public or private health sectors may find themselves increasingly asked to demonstrate their professionalism,” explains UKCHIP director of standards Dr Jean Roberts.
“UKCHIP’s website offers a free self-assessment that contractors can use to determine their level of knowledge and competence. Even if a contractor cannot meet all the requirements, they will gain an advantage if they register as an affiliate and sign up to the code of professional conduct.”
What is health informatics?
According to Roberts, health informatics: “is widely understood to be ‘the knowledge, skills and tools that enable information to be collected, managed, used and shared safely to support the delivery of healthcare and promote health’.
The vast majority of NHS IT contracts will fall somewhere within the health informatics spectrum, so contractors from a commercial background who are familiar with the terminology and requirements will gain an automatic advantage as requirements for specialised health informatics knowledge and experience tighten in job specifications.
“The NHS is going through a challenging time right now,” continues Roberts, “and the role of information in improving patient safety, protecting the public and demonstrating probity in all aspects of health has risen from the back office to providing direct support to clinicians, managers and policy makers.”
Registration is not compulsory, yet, but it delivers competitive advantage
Although UKCHIP registration is not compulsory, it is increasingly appearing as a desirable feature for all health informatics (including IT) contractors applying for NHS assignments, believes Roberts. Registration will increasingly help commercial contractors overcome any reluctance on the part of NHS Health Informatics departments to hire them.
Roberts explains: “Registration demonstrates that a potential contractor recognises the particular safety factors involved in handling sensitive health data or running operational health systems.
Even if a contractor cannot meet all the requirements, they will gain an advantage if they register as an affiliate and sign up to the code of professional conduct
Dr Jean Roberts, UKCHIP
“Being registered shows you intend to stay ‘street-sharp’ and are aware of the importance of maintaining the integrity of data and systems that relate to clinical conditions, patient outcomes and the effective use of health resources.”
Roberts believes that IT contractors should be working to the same standards and level of professionalism as NHS Health Informatics employees, and able to hit the ground running in any relevant role.
Levels of UKCHIP registration for IT contractors
A new partnership between UKCHIP, NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has increased the importance of registration.
Roberts highlights that contract assignment specifications as well as job role specifications, could include a UKCHIP level. These are:
- Affiliate: new entrants to the sector not yet compliant with the standards for full registration but wishing to demonstrate commitment to achieving these
- Level 1: suitable for those in the early stages of their career; a minimum of one year’s experience in health informatics or where the level of informatics in their role is not substantial
- Level 2: a practitioner with at least two years experience in health and two in informatics, working at an autonomous level
- Level 3: a professional with a minimum of three years in the sector, and normally five years or more, working at a senior, highly specialised or strategic level
Eligibility for registration is based on an assessment of a contractor’s qualifications, experience and employment profile.It also takes account of the outcome of the self-assessment against the UKCHIP competency standards for registration.
“From submitting a self-assessment and application for registration at any level should take only a couple of weeks, as trained assessors are already established and operational,” adds Roberts. “Once accepted, your details will go on an online public register that can be viewed by potential NHS clients to validate your claim for professional registration.
“The demand for health informatics staff is increasing, across hospitals, primary care and the policy organisations and in the providers of services to those areas, she notes.“Even if a contractor’s IT skills and competence are generic, gained in another sector, signing up to UKCHIP will demonstrate that they recognise the importance of the context in which they will be working and are taking steps to understand it more”.