When the Federation for Informatics Professionals in Health and Social Care was created in 2016, it was with the sole purpose of bringing a recognised professional standard to the informatics profession. Bringing together a collection of awarding bodies, including BCS, AphA, IHRIM and CILIP in a collaborative skills network, FEDIP was designed to be a register of professionals who would share knowledge and promote the skills needed for the future.
Just like the registers we keep of doctors and nurses, reflecting their levels of excellence, the professionals at the frontline of informatics have their own register. The institutions licensed to award FEDIP offer their members registration at four levels - Practitioner, Senior Practitioner, Advanced Practitioner and Leading Practitioner - dependent on the competence, knowledge and experience of the applicant.
Relevance and importance
Kicking off the day and explaining both the relevance and importance of FEDIP to a room full of informaticians at BCS London, was James Freed, CIO of Health Education England.He spoke about the importance of FEDIP to professionalise non-clinical skills and the need to both unify professionals in a single body while promoting uniformity across the industry. He talked of government support of the sea-change around digital skills and digital enablement; the serious upscaling of NHS investment in informatics and the dearth of informaticians in the industry as the need for good data scientists mushroom-clouds.
Freed commented: ‘Informatics is a young industry. We are within living memory of the first computer. It’s a young industry - but it’s moving fast. And, it’s the most dangerous industry in the world: patients entering the care system have a 1/400 chance of being seriously hurt or killed by mistake. As an industry, it makes us very risk averse.’
Although admitting a traditional reluctance to change within the health sector, he went on to ask for everyone in the room to seize the opportunity and be a part of that change; as a member of a professional body, an employer and as an individual. He explained to the room of informatics professionals: ‘We are moving towards regulation. You are the front runners of this movement and you will be fundamental in helping us improve it.’
Making FEDIP work for you and your team
New to FEDIP and keen to learn more at the workshop was Mark Kenny of Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS foundation and a member of the faculty of clinical informatics. For him, attending the workshop at BCS was to help him better understand how FEDIP might work for his team and his organisation. ‘I wanted to see how this might work as a networking opportunity of like-minded people. We’ve just developed a new tech team within our organisation and we’re keen to learn from other people’s knowledge and diverse skillset to build a community we can work with.’
Unlike doctors or nurses, a digital specialist in the NHS doesn’t have to have a licence to practice or be affiliated to a professional body. This, along with the fact that individuals may frequently change roles without necessarily updating their work history, can make assessing CVs rather complicated. In the future, FEDIP could be used as a recruitment tool to assess a candidate’s suitability, long before the CVs come rolling in. Kenny admits: ‘You never really know until you’re in the room with someone how their CV translates.’
Kenny’s colleague Marie Da Costa continues: ‘I’m new to the team as well, so for me [FEDIP] is around that collaboration and networking as my role is around user adoption. So, it’s about how we connect with different communities and how we can better collaborate on different things. I’m new to BCS and I’m looking forward to going onto the website and really getting under the skin of things.’
The application process
Tasked with helping professionals take that first essential step of application to FEDIP was Julie Andrews, Key Account Manager for Health at BCS. Taking the professionals through the application process, Andrews explained the four levels of FEDIP registration as well as answering the questions candidates had along the way.
Andrews reaffirmed that the purpose of the day was to help health informatics professionals be better equipped to do their jobs, showcase their skills and safeguard their professional futures. Each professional was then required to gauge their level of knowledge, qualifications, training and work activities to decide where they sat on the SFIAplus scale; therefore discovering which level of expertise they should apply for to join the FEDIP register.
Candidates were then invited to complete the competency-based application form to explain what each professional had done, their achievements / failures, what they’d learned, as well as a list of supporters who were able to verify the information given on the application.
Championing the industry
A delegate who is no stranger to FEDIP or BCS is Chartered Institute Fellow David Wyndham Lewis, Chief Technical Officer for Health at ATOS. He summed up the need for FEDIP: ‘The health industry, I think, is a good example of a reason why we’ve got to have professionalisation of digital and informatics. I think there’s a drive towards professionalisation across all industries and all sectors, but particularly in health [where] there’s a particularly strong case.
‘An informatics professional misconfiguring a prescribing system, can do an awful lot of damage to an awful lot of people very quickly. So, the need for a professionalised health informatics industry is critical and that’s about building trust in the clinical body, it’s about making sure that we ourselves are qualified, with chartered status alongside FEDIP level. Previously, you could be anyone and get a role in an NHS organisation configuring highly complex, highly sensitive and highly impactful clinical systems. A move towards something more akin to a licence to practice - certainly for high end professionals - is key.
‘I like to lead by example, so I became a CITP eight years ago and that was because I was very much backing BCS as the chartered entity for our industry - and I shall be doing the same for FEDIP.’