We’re currently recruiting for new inspectors. In our latest blog, Catriona Hutcheson explains the diversity and satisfaction she gets from the role.

For most people, there is not a standard route to becoming an inspector for health and care services.

For me, I’d spent 15 years as an occupational therapist in mental health before making the change. Over that time, I’d developed a keen interest in how the quality of services offered to people could be improved for those who received them. I became increasingly keen to put this to good use. When an opportunity arose to work as a visiting commissioner with the Mental Welfare Commission I jumped at the chance.

It was a challenging but exciting role where I learned about regulation and quality assurance in a wider context. I started exploring the role of quality assurance in improving health and social care services and learnt about the work of Healthcare improvement Scotland. This is when I realised that I wanted to be an inspector. I always had a passion for driving improvement, and I realised that inspections are an important tool in achieving this. Not only do we identify where improvement is needed, but we recognise and share good practice examples so others can learn from them.

What it means to be an inspector

The word inspector carries many connotations with it relating to things like restaurants and even of course the police, and with those connotations come many stereotypical images of stern faces and clipboards and an officious tick-box manner. One thing is for sure, if that had been what the role is, I would not have been attracted to and I would not have stayed here for six years.

I’ve found working for a national organisation to be very exciting. I enjoy the flexible working arrangements and opportunities to work from home if required. We are expected to deliver on nationwide programmes of inspection, so there are a lot of opportunities to travel around Scotland and gain new experiences, as well as develop wider working networks with staff from different partnerships.

For me, the very best thing about being an inspector is when you see the quality assurance process contribute to improved services for people who access them. I recently led a team from different quality assurance organisations in a review of a health and social care partnership we had previously inspected. It is one of the highlights of my career to see first-hand the improvements that were made, and to be part of recognising the hard work that had been done to achieve them. This is one of the most satisfying and rewarding aspects of the job. Like all health professionals, my reason for doing my job is to help people when they need us.

Working with Healthcare Improvement Scotland

When I joined Healthcare Improvement Scotland, the biggest challenge was adjusting to the wide scope of the role, but I soon realised that we each bring different skills and experiences and it those that enable us to be valuable members of the quality assurance team.

I joined a multi-agency team which inspected health and social care partnerships, alongside colleagues from the Care Inspectorate and Audit Scotland. Our inspection role in this area was large and a little daunting at first. We went through a process of analysing data and intelligence about the partnership, before heading on site to read files, meet with people who access services and hear about their experiences, both the good and the bad. Then we spent time with staff from the partnership, meeting with staff of all grades, and specialisms, including the senior managers and chief executives. At the end of the process we produced a report. The primary purpose for our reports was to help the partnership improve services for people who use them. 

A diverse and ever-changing role

The inspector role is constantly evolving and there are always opportunities to work in new and different areas of our work.

The highlight of my time with Healthcare Improvement Scotland has been my recent engagement in the IRMER (Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations) inspections. Radiology and radiography are highly-specialised areas of work in healthcare. The regulated inspections of these areas required intense training. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and satisfaction of these inspections. This is an element of the job that I love.

I have also been part of a team led by HM Inspectorate of prisons inspecting a prison.  My focus was of course on the provision of healthcare for the prisoners.  I really enjoyed this experience as it is such a unique environment in which to deliver healthcare. I was also involved in the first ever review of community mental health services across an entire NHS board, where I was able to draw on my experience of working in frontline mental health services to contribute to this pioneering piece of work. I’ve also shadowed colleagues as they complete regulatory inspections of independent healthcare clinics. These inspections are different, because they are private businesses and the evaluations in the report will influence people when they chose the clinic they wish to go to. 

If you’re looking for a job that is rewarding, challenging and diverse, and where you get the opportunity to travel, then becoming an inspector is a great career move. You’ll learn and grow, and feel that you play a key role in helping to ensure that people get the best care no matter where and how it is delivered across Scotland.

Catriona Hutcheson is a senior inspector with Healthcare Improvement Scotland

We’re currently recruiting for new inspectors, to find out more and to apply, visit: https://apply.jobs.scot.nhs.uk/displayjob.aspx?jobid=26459