In early 2019 a full governance review across all IHEEMs core business activities was undertaken by IHEEM Head Office. The operation and management of Technical Platforms (TP) and Boards of Registration (AE) ((BOR(AE)) was identified as a corporate risk and this, together with the recommendation to undertake a review, was discussed with and agreed by IHEEMs Executive Council. The Engineering Council UK’s licencing review in 2019 also issued a red alert in relation to how the TPs were being managed.
Pete Sellars said “There were 5 key drivers that highlighted the need to review and update the Terms of Reference for our Technical Platforms and AE management arrangements:
- Meet the licencing requirements set out by the Engineering Council UK in the 2019 review and corporate responsibilities to the Charities Committee and all IHEEM members
- Protect IHEEM from potential professional litigation and reputational damage
- Ensure transparency, fairness, inclusiveness, along with consistency across all aspects of TPs and registration boards in terms of structure, core competencies, accessibility and levels of activity to support and update members
- Create confidence across the system that all IHEEM activity is underpinned by robust governance and assurance and operates within agreed standards and by appropriate codes of conduct
- Support the 5 Year Business Plan commitment to modernise all elements of the Institute, ensuring it is fit for purpose to respond to new opportunities and challenges
In March 2019 I advised all TP chairs of the intention to undertake a review and the broad context was then set out for initial feedback. This consequently formed the basis of a detailed face-to-face discussion held in July 2019 where we sought initial feedback from TP Chairs around key topics should as professional indemnity, along with trademarking and concerns around individuals and companies operating under the IHEEM brand without having approval to do so. In February 2020 at an IHEEM Strategic Planning event, Council considered the findings of that review and unanimously agreed that governance and assurance around TP and BoR(AE) activities should be strengthened to meet the points provided in the rationale set out above.”
A ‘broad plan’ developed
Following further engagement a broad plan was developed in May 2020 and in August 2020 a Working Group, chaired by IHEEM President Paul Fenton, was established to ensure that all members of the Technical Platforms and BOR(AE) had a fair and equitable chance to contribute to the discussion on behalf of their respective groups. The Working Group met several times to develop and agree on a proposal to Council for a revised suite of documents based on a scope which featured several keys issues including:
- Role and Structure of the Technical Platforms and BOR(AE)s
- Independency & Inclusivity
- Assurance of professional standards and behaviours
- Process of Appointment and Re-appointment
- Consistency of Approach
- Transparency & Fairness
IHEEM President, Paul Fenton, said “The Working Group spent in excess of 10 hours discussing and deliberating a wide range of issues and areas as a group, not to mention the additional time they took to consult with platform and board members. Their input has been invaluable and much appreciated especially during recent times when our sector has been under such enormous strain and pressure. Although it has been a lengthy process, it is one which was vitally needed to ensure robust governance is in place to protect both the Institute and Technical Platforms and AEs in their duties. I would like to thank the members of the Working Group for their time and commitment.”
Pete Sellars added “Following the completion of this review Im delighted to say that the Engineering Council UK have removed the red alert to green which is positive news and clearly demonstrates why this work was so important.
“Going forward our Technical Platform members and IHEEM AEs can enjoy a number of new benefits including dedicated AE logos for their own use, individual AE photo ID card provided with IHEEM lanyard, individual listing in our online AE directory as well as the IHEEM Handbook. I’m also hoping that our platforms and AEs will play a key part in our 2021 Healthcare Estates online and on-demand conference in October. Our new multi-streaming format will be the perfect opportunity for them to share knowledge, best practice and highlight their plans for the future. This builds on the success of our recent AE online event “The Importance of the Role of an IHEEM Authorising Engineer” which was well attended with over 200 registrations.”
Providing confidence for clients that IHEEM AEs appointments and re-registrations process ensures due diligence and robust peer review was one of the key drivers for the review. In relation to the importance of AEs from a clients perspective, Nigel Keery, Head of Estates Operations, Belfast Trust said: “We use AE services extensively and we rely on them being the best they can be. It’s extremely important that the services are offered as part of a framework and structure that assesses an individual’s competence, knowledge and expertise in their given specialism. As a client we want to know that the AE is continually learning and developing and that they are accessing the best knowledge for their discipline and that they are up to date with all the legislative and best practice changes. We have to be assured that we are being given appropriate independent advice to ensure that our patients and staff are in the safest and best facilities. IHEEMs revised Terms of Reference for their Technical Platforms and AEs provides that structure and due diligence on behalf of the client. This is essential since the role of the AE is growing and evolving as the requirements of patient care becomes more complex and the use of materials becomes more demanding. Their independence is vital so that they can bring their wider experience to us and share their learning with our staff at the Trust.”
Highly respected AE’s view
David Harper, EngTech, FIHEEM, FWMSOC MCIPHE-MIET-HFSOPHE, Public Health Officer, Hospital Engineer & IHEEM Registered AE(Water) sets out his perspective on the role of an AE and what “the law of the land” requires:
“Being a member of IHEEM in whatever capacity is a privilege and an honour in its own right as IHEEM is respected all over the world.
My career in healthcare began in Middlesex in 1967 when I was appointed Chief Superintendent Engineer. Over the years that title has changed to Estate Manager, Hospital Engineer, Senior Engineer, Head of Engineering and Estates Manager but in reality, whatever the title, you are still held to account by the hierarchy of the hospital.
The last hospital that I worked at was Kingston District General Hospital in Surrey where in 1979 the first outbreak of the little-known Legionnaire’s Disease occurred.
In the early days, very little was known about this disease, especially from the engineering point of view so we had to start from square one. Thankfully, we know a lot more nowadays and some of the engineering solutions that were developed during those early times are now accepted worldwide and formed the basis for the regulations and legislation that we see today. For example, the Approved Code of Practice L8 for the Control of Legionella in Building Water Systems and also the guidance HSG 274 Parts 1 to 3 as well as the Health Technical Memorandums and other documentation which must now be applied to healthcare buildings.”
David Harper continued: “Authorised Engineers, across a number of disciplines, are appointed to provide technical support and independent expert advice. IHEEM set up registers to ensure that when AEs carry out their duties in healthcare premises, they are qualified to do so ie: they have time served, hands-on experience, and that they have a full understanding of all the relevant regulatory and legal requirements. When any individual applies to become a registered IHEEM AE they have to go through a peer review of their qualifications and experience which are looked at in precise detail to ensure that they are as the court would say “fit for purpose” to carry out their AE duties. Once accepted, your certificate lasts for three years at which point you are eligible for re-registration, when once again you are checked and peer reviewed.”
“To be an AE you must be totally and utterly independent. This avoids the situation whereby a employing company could apply pressure to the AE to inform a client in a hospital of something that the company might want to supply. In this way it could be deemed that the AE is being used as a salesman. If you work for a company and are an AE, you are a servant of that company and therefore in a court you would not be counted as being totally and utterly independent.
As well as being independent all AEs must have the right level of insurance appropriate to the duties they are carrying out. It is a legal requirement that anyone who is employed by a hospital or anywhere else must have insurance to cover them personally and publicly in case of any unforeseen situation that may occur. If you work at a hospital but are not an employee the hospital does not insure you. You, or your employer must provide the insurance.”
Called as an ‘expert witness’
“On a number of occasions, I have been called to Crown Court as an “expert witness” to testify where companies or individuals have been brought to trial due to failures in water systems in hospitals resulting, in some cases, to fatalities. In every case I have been asked to help the court determine whether the client did everything to ensure that the AE was “fit for purpose” e.g.: had protocols in place for their appointment and had adhered to them, and that the AE was competent and able to provide independent advice free from duress by an employer. In the event of guilty verdicts hospitals, individuals or companies have had to pay substantial damages.
In summary an AE for any discipline must be totally independent; must be insured and must have been through an appointment or re-registration process that includes a peer review of their qualifications, experience and knowledge.
I was also pleased to hear that each IHEEM AEs, myself included, will now be issued with a membership card which will include their photograph, their membership number and registration expiry date. This is an important step around governance and providing assurance to clients that the AE before them is a registered IHEEM AE in that particular discipline.”
You can read more about this review and further views from IHEEMs President Paul Fenton and members, including David Harper, in the accompanying reports from the recent AE online event in this edition.
Please also visit the IHEEM website for further information on the Technical Platforms and the Institute’s AEs https://www.iheem.org.uk/about-us/governance/