Why is it so important that IT professionals who work in a health and care setting are recognised and supported? Claire Penketh, BCS Senior Press Officer, went to Cardiff to discover what we can learn about professionalising informatics.

Technology is increasingly at the heart of the NHS and the care sector. But so far, unlike doctors and nurses who have to annually update their licence to practise, there is no compulsory professional registration system for health informatician.

That’s despite the increasing use of tech in treatment and, for instance, in the storage and sharing of patient records. That’s where the pubic register of FEDIP comes in - which is uniquely placed to bring together the diverse disciplines across the informatics profession to set and maintain professional standards, thereby safeguarding the public through the best use of information and technology in health care.

Professionalising IT in health and social care

Up until recently, Katy Wilson headed up a team of database administrators. It’s a responsible job as the systems database apps are used across Wales to access patient’s results. Katy’s team maintains the site and makes sure everything runs smoothly - which, she said, can be quite stressful: ‘we used the analogy of a duck paddling like mad whilst appearing to glide on the water. We infrastructure people are the ones paddling underwater like crazy and meanwhile, the end-user doesn’t have a clue about what we are doing.’

Katy decided to sign up to the Federation for Informatics Professionals register (FEDIP) because she believed it would validate her competency to work in IT in the health sector: ‘I think it helps ensure a certain level of confidence in our professionalism and it helps with career progression. It shows people are doing things the correct way and are setting a good example.’

How do I join FEDIP?

FEDIP itself, and the public register it maintains, was set up by four established professional bodies:

  • BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT
  • The Institute of Health Records and Information Management (IHRIM)
  • The Library and Information Association (CILIP)
  • The Association of Professional Healthcare Analysts (AphA)

FEDIP’s mission is to get suitably skilled IT staff to provide evidence of their competency and sign up to its professional register. Candidates review and renew their registration annually - and unlike qualifications which may have been achieved some time ago - it demonstrates their skills are bang up to date.

Katy said the process of providing evidence for the registration itself was easy to understand: ‘It reminds me of when I was an apprentice in that you collect evidence from the work you are doing, or have done, to show you have met those standards.’

To join FEDIP, applicants must be a member of one of the four professional bodies mentioned above. There are four levels to apply for from the basic practitioner, through to leading practitioner. There is an online application where candidates describe their duties and skills, along with providing evidence to back up their statements, along with peer assessment. BCS also runs regional workshops to help candidates complete their forms.

The FEDIP application process

The application is measured against FEDIP standards - which are nine professional competencies and health-related context criteria.

Rob Ludman, an active BCS member, is a FEDIP assessor and a Team Manager at the NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS). He’s a seasoned digital professional, beginning his career with an applications and infrastructure IT provider in 2003 before joining the NHS in 2013.

In his previous industry, he says the professionalisation of IT staff was taken more seriously and that should be the case in health: ‘My wife is a nurse and my brother a doctor and it’s ingrained in their professional practice that they revalidate their professionalism.

‘Which is something that our IT professionals should have to do over the fullness of time, especially as our systems and our services are becoming a more critical part of doctor / patient relationship. The level of trust that patients put into our doctors is the same level of trust that the doctors have to put in our IT professionals.’

Informatics in Wales

Joanna Dundon is the National Clinical Informatics Lead for the NHS Wales e-Library. She is also a member of CILIP and said for her and her staff it makes sense to sign up to also sign up to FEDIP: ‘I’m very keen on CPD both for myself and my staff. I think, as health informaticians, we haven’t been shouting from the rooftops about how valuable we are and the skills we have, especially as digitalisation is affecting everyone’s lives.

‘As digital is becoming more important I think this is a good opportunity, and it's important, to have a register like FEDIP in place.’

As yet, standardisation of the competency of IT professionals in health care is still a work in progress. Being FEDIP registered is not yet mandatory in the NHS, but assessor Rob said he’s hopeful that will change: ‘I think it’s about establishing our professional values and capability in the eyes of the clinical community.

‘It’s great to see it’s gathering pace and we are starting to see some of the NHS Wales staff applying - that is really good news.’

Find out more about FEDIP