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So, what does it actually mean to be the safe practice officer?

So, what does it actually mean to be the safe practice officer?

Ian Stones
Safe Practice Officer


Well for the last three years it has meant rewriting the Code and Guide to Safe Practice for Acupuncture… although actually, that’s not part of the day-to-day job. I just happened to take on this role at a time when a review was long overdue. I do however think that was a perfect start as I now know the Code and Guide inside out!

Essentially, I see that I am here to support members in their day-to-day practice and I think that’s a really important point to get across. I speak to a lot of members in this role and it is often about offering reassurance and help when it comes to the more difficult and challenging situations we face in clinic. A really important aspect of the BAcC’s work is providing professional support to members in all areas of their practice and support around safe practice is essential. Safe practice covers a huge breadth including safety implications of treating certain patient groups, licensing, clinical waste, insurance, blood donation and adverse reactions to treatment.

Many practitioners work in isolation and have very little support around them. Certainly, regional and supervision groups are a great opportunity for members to connect with others but when they’re faced with a particularly challenging situation, they sometimes need something more immediate and this is where I come in. A common example of this might be when a patient has an unusual response to treatment such as needle shock or a strong nerve sensation and the practitioner doesn’t know how to respond. In these sorts of situations, it’s great to be able to talk to a practitioner, find out what’s happened and then help them to help their clients feel reassured and looked after. Quite often once I’ve spoken to someone, they’ll say ‘I’m so pleased I called’. I think there is a worry that as safe practice officer my role is to catch people out or to enforce rules that people don’t like. That certainly isn’t how I see it – I’m here to help in any way I can.

I’m also responsible for supporting members with their clinical self-audit tool, managing the safety section of the website and collating and recording adverse incident reports. Adverse incident reporting and the self-audit are an important part of what we do as a profession, so that we are monitoring what’s happening in clinic and maintaining our high safety standards. I’ve been keen to develop the safe practice self-audit and adverse incident reporting forms in ways that make it easier for members to complete them, which is why we introduced them online. I also wanted the Guide to be available online and in sections, to make it simpler to access and update. Having completed this last year I now need to regularly review and update sections of the Guide depending on what new issues are coming up. With these updates and any other news in and around safety / safe practice it’s important that I communicate these to the membership either via our regular e-news or via Acu, the British Acupuncture Council’s quarterly magazine.

I’m also here to help members of the public, an aspect of the role I particularly enjoy. As one of the practitioner members of the staff team I’ll often speak to someone wanting general guidance on acupuncture such as can acupuncture help with “x”, how much treatment would I need? How much does it cost? But I will also talk with anyone who calls and has questions or concerns about the treatment they’ve received. On some occasions these aren’t treatments that have been given by our members, but it is still our responsibility to make sure patients are properly informed about the treatment they’ve received and what they should expect from their practitioner.

Overall my role is quite diverse requiring a broad knowledge of all areas of safe practice. The Guide to Safe Practice is a fantastic resource that members can use, but I’m here for when that doesn’t quite answer the issues we sometimes face in practice.

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