Guidance for business and government departments.
Accreditation and conformity assessment, along with standards, are important ways to give confidence in goods, services, management systems and people. They make a significant contribution to the economy, health and safety, and environment.
The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) is responsible for conformity assessment and accreditation policy. This information is for businesses and other government departments that are looking for tools to:
- provide assurance to customers that their products or services meet specified requirements
- help them win contracts where conformity assessment and accreditation are required
- deliver government policy
Accreditation is used in both the regulated and voluntary sectors. It increases trust in conformity assessment (see below) and helps products, processes, services, systems, persons and bodies be recognised across the UK and internationally.
Accreditation ensures that those who carry out testing, certification and inspection are competent to do so. Accreditation is one of the key components of the UK’s National Quality Infrastructure (NQI), along with conformity assessment, standardisation, measurement, and market surveillance. Overall, the NQI makes a significant contribution to the economy, health and safety, and the environment.
DBT leads on general accreditation policy across all departments. Individual government departments and agencies are responsible for the application of accreditation policy for their specific areas of responsibility.
In the UK, the body appointed under the Accreditation Regulations 2009 as the sole national accreditation body (NAB) is the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). UKAS is the sole NAB for undertaking mandatory and voluntary accreditation in the UK. DBT will only recognise accreditation of UK based conformity assessment bodies that has been granted by UKAS.
The Regulation on Accreditation and Market Surveillance No 765/2008 (“RAMS”) became incorporated into GB law by the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and deficiencies were corrected by the Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 UK Statutory Instruments 2019 No. 696 (as amended). This is the legislative framework for accreditation in GB (referred to as GB RAMS).
The regulations apply to accreditation used on a voluntary or compulsory basis in relation to conformity assessment. The following provisions relating to accreditation are in the legislation:
- requires the NAB to be a not-for-profit organisation
- requires the NAB to evaluate the competence of a conformity assessment body when that body requests accreditation
- sets down requirements that the NAB must fulfil
- requires the Government to monitor the NAB at regular intervals
- requires the NAB to undergo regular evaluation by the body approved by the Secretary of State (peer evaluation)
In Northern Ireland, Regulation (EC) No. 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance (as it applies in EU law, through the Northern Ireland Protocol) will continue to apply and be basis for accreditation policy.
Conformity assessment provides assurance that what is being supplied meets the expectations specified or claimed. It can be applied to:
Conformity assessment includes activities such as testing, inspection and certification. The organisations that make these checks are called conformity assessment bodies.
Seek accreditation in the UK with UKAS
Accreditation is the recommended means of demonstrating a conformity assessment body’s competence. Where a CAB requests accreditation, it shall do so with UKAS as the sole NAB for the UK.
As the national accreditation body, UKAS is required to be compliant with UK legislation, engage with international accreditation forums and operate within the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with DBT. UK businesses, government, and local authorities that need third party conformity assessment services should seek those services from conformity assessment bodies accredited by UKAS. Government only recognises UKAS accreditation of conformity assessment bodies operating in the UK.
The UKAS website has more information on what accreditation is and the benefits of accreditation for both business and government, as well as how to apply for accreditation. It also has, for those seeking to employ an accredited conformity assessment body, a list of conformity assessment bodies accredited by UKAS.
DBT sponsors and provides limited funding to UKAS to undertake public interest activities in representing the UK’s interests in the international accreditation infrastructure. Otherwise, UKAS is expected to be self-financing and operates as a not for profit organisation.
Health and social care: accreditation policy
Accreditation underpins quality and confidence in health and social care provision to ensure consistency in the delivery of healthcare services to patients and commissioners.
In its role as the national accreditation body UKAS operates in the public interest and is committed to developing and delivering accreditation that provides assurance of services, including healthcare scientific and diagnostic services. Working with DHSC and other stakeholders, UKAS is committed to advancing the use of accreditation across health and social care sectors.
In line with the government’s accreditation policy and to ensure clarity about where accreditation can be used, the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) agreed a joint policy statement.
Government policy on accreditation in health and social care
The following is the Department for Business and Trade, and the Department of Health and Social Care’s agreed policy on accreditation in health and social care:
UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) is the sole government recognised national accreditation body see footnote 1 for organisations.
UKAS operates under a MoU with government that specifies the activities that UKAS is recognised to accredit, these include healthcare scientific and diagnostic services.
UKAS’ role as the National Accreditation Body thus applies in the health and care sectors as in all others. In accordance with UK legislation, health and social care quality assurance schemes must be developed and maintained with the engagement of UKAS, taking account of the existing principles that apply to accreditation and conformity assessment.
Where new quality assurance schemes are planned in the NHS or in social care, particularly where there is interest in developing schemes awarding certification or other form of recognition, their initiators must work with UKAS from an early stage to ensure that the schemes are sufficiently rigorous to meet UK accreditation requirements.
DBT – DHSC November 2023
1: Accreditation Regulations 2009 – legislation.gov.uk
Accreditation logo and symbols
DBT owns the national accreditation logo and symbols – that incorporate the Royal Crown – which DBT licences to UKAS. UKAS is able to sub-licence the symbols to successfully accredited conformity assessment bodies.
DBT is aware that UK certification bodies and representative associations are concerned at the increase in the number of organisations offering certification when they are not accredited to do so.
DBT has advised certification representative organisations in the UK that:
- the only ‘authoritative statement’ of competence, that has public authority status – providing the last level of control in the conformity assessment chain – is from the UK’s sole national accreditation body, UKAS
- any organisation that suggests it is accredited in the sense of the Regulation on accreditation and market surveillance (765/2008) as it has effect in Great Britain or Regulation (EC) 765/2008 in Northern Ireland when they are not, may be guilty of an offence under the Busines Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (Statutory Instrument 2008/1276)
- certification bodies, representative organisations or affected businesses should, in the first instance, refer these cases to Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards which has a Primary Authority Relationship with UKAS. Alternatively, they can refer the case direct to UKAS, or to their own local trading standards authority.
Naming your business: applying to use ‘accredited’ or related words in your company’s name
To use the sensitive words accreditation, accredit, accredited or accrediting in your company, Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) or business name, you will need to obtain prior approval from the Secretary of State for DBT. Please read the guidance in the link below, which tells you what you need to consider and what information you need to include if you decide to go forward with your application.
The administration of the company names regime is carried out by Companies House on behalf of the Secretary of State.