ISO9001 AS A QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

by Eileen Costello Conneely, Quality Co-ordinator, Galway County Association

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The Galway Association has had a Quality Management System in place since June 1993, based on the ISO9001 Standard. For the Association this means setting our own standards, interpreting and applying the standards laid down by the ISO9001 Management Standards. These management standards form a system for quality assurance in the design and development of services. Our aim is to evaluate and continually develop the services we offer.

The ISO Standard currently contains twenty clauses or requirements, the objective being to deliver a consistent service that meets the client’s needs and expectations.

Essential elements

With our Quality Management System, there is consistency in service provision, with each particular area, such as child education and development, social work, administration and so on, having its own standards, objectives and procedures within the framework of the Association’s overall policies and procedures. Procedures are clearly written, reflect reality and are easy to follow, and all documentation is written in the same format. Procedures outline areas of responsibility and this can be very beneficial.

For example, our adult group homes have their own operating procedures with policy statement and objectives. These objectives respect the dignity and privacy of our clients, while empowering individuals to reach their individual potential with emphasis on self advocacy and self-reliance, promoting the integration of each person into the community. There are procedures to support these objectives, covering Essential skills training, individual self-determination, clients’ personal income budgeting, social outings/events and safeguards for unaccompanied clients in the community; these are invaluable for staff members, and particularly useful for new staff members.

Having the quality system in place has also meant that services are now at a very high level in relation to complying with Health and Safety and Freedom of Information legislation.

Documentation

The documentation in our quality system is split into four levels:

  • The Quality Manual sets out general quality policies, procedures and practices, includes the Quality Policy Statement, and describes the structure of the organisation.
  • The General Procedures Manuals outline the general procedures of the Association, such as admissions, reviews, confidentiality, emergencies, training, accounts and so on.
  • The Operating Procedures Manuals for each section describe the day-to-day operational activities, and define sequences of events, responsibilities and links between various services and departments.
  • For some activities detailed step-by-step instructions are required, by way of work instructions.
  • Records provide information and demonstrate effective operation of the quality system; they consist of client records, personnel records, audit reports, health and safety records, training records, forms and other such documentation.
Audits

Each service or department is audited internally on an annual basis by the Quality Co-ordinator. The Association is also subject to external audits from the accreditation body for ISO9001, the National Standards Authority of Ireland. This provides independent assessment.

Management Review

The Management Review group consists of the senior management team who meet regularly and review the quality system, with all aspects of services reviewed.

Feedback

The Quality Management System has many feedback loops:

  • The audit process, internal and external
  • General feedback through the Quality Department
  • Surveys of clients and families, and of staff
  • Complaints
  • Ongoing review of quality system
Quality circles

Quality Circles are set up within the Association as part of the Quality Management System to look at specific issues such as challenging behaviour, circulation of reports, medication, client funds, and advocacy.

Main strengths and limitations

Our system is focused on the outcomes from the process and needs to be focused more on outcomes for clients. This area is being reviewed at the moment, and when outcome measures are developed within the organisation, they can be incorporated quite easily into ISO9001 as part of the existing system.

Main strength of our ISO system is that it is a systematic approach to reviewing organisational procedures and practice. It provides a clear feedback loop and links various elements of the organisation together. It is externally accredited and therefore provides an independent and well-recognised validation of service quality. It provides a basic framework for evaluation of service provision and promotes good practice in the process of service delivery, providing a good base for building on and developing continuous improvement initiatives. It also promotes accountability throughout the Association.

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