CHKS Surveyor Q&A

Sharon Spriggs is Quality Manager Radiotherapy and Radiotherapy Physics at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS FT and is also a CHKS Surveyor. Sharon tells us why CHKS accreditation is the gold standard for healthcare organisations looking to evidence improvement and why she wanted to become part of the CHKS volunteer workforce of surveyors.

What is your background and what do you do as a CHKS surveyor?

I have worked in radiotherapy for nearly 30 years and moved into quality management in 2014. Being CHKS accredited is something many NHS organisations aspire to so when I got the opportunity to become a surveyor, I was keen to become involved. I felt getting involved as an independent and impartial surveyor would be helpful for my radiotherapy career and department. We are all facing similar challenges and sharing best practice is an important part of quality improvement.

How do surveyors help to share insight and best practice across healthcare?

A good example of this is my work as part of the accreditation of a radiotherapy unit in Derry, Northern Ireland. The department is now paperless, and the team managed to achieve this by using software to create an entirely paperless patient pathway. Sharing the way the department has done this will be very helpful to other organisations. We can do this when we visit a department that is struggling with the process of going paperless by pointing to what we have seen in Derry.

How has the surveyor role has changed during the pandemic?

Our usual approach is to visit an organisation in person which helps to support them throughout the accreditation journey. The pandemic has changed this because we are not able to carry out in-person visits and instead we have put in place a series of virtual online meetings. I think this worked particularly well with one radiotherapy department at Mid and South Essex NHS FT where we had regular online meetings over three weeks. From an auditor’s point of view this is helpful because there is less pressure to cover everything in two or three in-person visits.
As part of a team of auditors we were able to work together in between these regular virtual meetings to agree what we had seen and then go back with additional questions and requests as and when needed. The radiotherapy department embraced this way of working and came up with innovative solutions. For example, the team sent us a video tour and pictures of the department to show us what they were doing to meet the requirements.
The only downside is that the preparation time for surveyors has increased. In the past, we would have been able to review on site and part-complete our documentation. Now we have to be more prepared and in some respects are stricter in terms of getting the evidence for standards and processes.

What are the benefits for Trusts of having remote surveyor visits?

As surveyors, we are always on hand to support organisations when needed, but more regular online interaction has benefited the organisations we work with. As we found with Mid and South Essex NHS FT, it also means they can be innovative and send us evidence in different ways. This in turn means the department pulls together to come up with ideas and solutions.

What do you see as the future role of the surveyor?

I think a hybrid approach could work well where we carry out in-person visits, but also make the most of the online submission of documents and also meet regularly online as well. This means we can shorten the time for our on-site visits.

What is it about CHKS that made you want to work as a surveyor?

CHKS accreditation is an indication that an organisation has reached such a high internationally recognised standard that I felt it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t join the surveyor team. The level of evidence that is required means that when you visit a department you know they have worked incredibly hard to evidence these high standards and it’s a privilege to be part of the process.
For more information 
Read our case study 'Freeing healthcare professionals from administration to deliver better-quality care through accreditation'

Read our Q&A with Kirstie Oliver, a CHKS Client Manager

Contact us for more information about CHKS accreditation