Laurie Clarke, Aesthetic Sector Lead at IQ Group explains the value of international certification for aesthetic practitioners

Over recent months, you may have come across several articles referencing ISO Standards and aesthetic training. It is likely that these articles included strings of numbers, such as 17065 and 17024, and claims that these somehow represent the latest way of thinking within aesthetic training. Although some readers may have been enticed by these cryptic messages and dived into the rabbit hole that is researching the meaning of ISO, it is far more likely that practitioners simply want answers as they attempt to navigate the minefield that is formal aesthetic training and education. The purpose of this article is to do just that – explain the role of ISO standards within the context of current aesthetic training.

Firstly, I would like to address the elephant in the room: “Why Bother? Until the need for formal aesthetic training becomes mandatory, what would be the point in undertaking a lengthy and costly regulated training programme?” This is indeed a question I have been asked on several occasions, and a question that I am sure is nailed to the door of the various committees/councils that have sprung to life since the publication of the Keogh Report. There are two answers to this question:

  1. To further your aesthetic knowledge and competency in accordance with the latest guidelines.
  2. To future proof your aesthetic career.

Referring to the first of these points, whilst a number of high-quality CPD programmes exist within the market, and many of these claim to meet past, current and future guidelines, the objectivity of this statement is not independently reviewed. In this way, it is the equivalent of a school declaring themselves Ofsted exempt. Whilst the calibre of teaching at this school may be higher than any other institution in the country, equally it might not be and there is no independent monitoring/verification of this statement. This is much unlike a regulated training programme, or programme that has been produced by a regulated organisation, such as those developed by Certification Bodies (programmes developed to meet the requirements of specific International Standards/ISOs), Awarding Organisations (regulated by Ofqual etc.) and Higher Education (Universities etc.).

The second of these points is a little more challenging to quantify as its date of effect relies upon the speed and competence of acting members of Parliament. For formal aesthetic training to be a career essential, Parliament must first debate and agree that in pursuit of public safety, this is a necessary requirement, and enshrine the need for training within relevant legislation. Unfortunately, and as we have all seen in recent years, the phrase “parliamentary competence” is reaching oxymoronic levels. Therefore, to address this point, I believe it more prudent to consider the actions of those with a commercial interest in protecting client/patient safety: insurers.

Whilst policies and eligibility criteria vary widely, offering reduced insurance premiums for those with specific forms of training is a win-win situation for insurers and practitioners alike. The core purpose of training is to improve competence. With improved aesthetic competence there is a reduced risk of serious clinical issues arising, both during and after the treatment. With reduced risk comes the reduced probability of a claim being made – enabling the premium reduction. Training-based reductions is therefore a model that is currently deployed within the sector, and is likely to increase alongside the availability of appropriate training programmes. Recognised and regulated training programmes, therefore, have particular value as they provide the insurer with the reassurance that a set calibre of competency has been delivered, without the need for further evaluation.

The output of this process is that recipients of training-based premium reductions will be placed at a commercial advantage when compared to those who have not received similar discounts, due to knock on effects upon treatment pricing and uptake. This factor alone will support the establishment and maintenance of a successful career within the field. Should legislation later emerge that formalises the requirement for specific forms of training/demonstrable competency, this commercial advantage will only increase, owing to this requirement having already been met.

Having discussed the value of undertaking a recognised aesthetic training programme, I shall now move onto explaining the role and value of ISO Standards within this framework.

An ISO Standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. These are produced by the International Organization for Standardization and are recognised in over 70 different countries across the world, from Albania to the USA.

IQ Verify are a UKAS-accredited certification body. UKAS are the national accreditation body for the United Kingdom, acting on behalf of the UK Government. IQ Verify are a sister company to Industry Qualifications, the regulated awarding organisation that produced the first and only Ofqual-regulated Level 7 Qualification in injectables for aesthetic medicine. Drawing upon the expertise gained through the successful delivery of this programme, IQ Verify have now produced an educational framework that intends to further improve the calibre of training available to aesthetic practitioners. Two internationally recognised standards have been used to achieve this aim, and these are detailed below:

  • ISO 17065:2012: This is the recognised standard for service providers, including aesthetic training providers. IQ Verify have developed a Learning Provider Certification Scheme in accordance with the requirements set within this standard.
  • ISO 17024:2012: This is the recognised standard for the certification of persons, including aesthetic practitioners. IQ Verify have developed a Level 4-7 Certification Scheme in Skin Rejuvenation that meets the requirements of this standard.

Training providers intending to deliver the Level 4-7 Certification Scheme in Skin Rejuvenation must first undertake a full on-site audit against the requirements set within the IQ Verify Learning Provider Scheme. Our experience of training provision within the aesthetic sector shows that in order to improve the calibre of training available to practitioners, you must, first start with the training school. Policy review alone is not sufficient to ensure that high quality and guideline adherent training can be consistently delivered. With the recent publication of guidelines (e.g., CPSA), it cannot simply be assumed that these standards have been embraced and incorporated within all areas of practice. Equally, it cannot be assumed that these standards will be maintained over time without proactive monitoring. For this reason our ISO journey begins with a 3.5-5 day on-site audit of training providers against the requirements set within the relevant guidelines.

Successful training providers will be certified as having met the requirements of the IQ Verify Learning Provider Scheme. This will be renewed annually follow the successful reaudit of ongoing clinical practice.

There are numerous benefits in adopting this approach:

  • IQ Verify set the bar, in accordance with Government guidelines and nationally recognised best practice, in terms of the standards expected of an aesthetic training provider. • Training providers are able to objectively demonstrate that they have met all of the relevant guidelines and have been certified in accordance with an internationally recognised standard. • Candidates can attend a training course assured that their chosen training provider is of a calibre that delivers upon the promises made within their Social Media posts.

Level 4-7 Skin Rejuvenation can be thought of as similar to a traditional route of qualification. Knowledge and competency training is delivered by appropriately certified training schools that permits candidates to undertake assessments in order to meet the requirements of the training programme. Level requirements have been mapped to those of the Regulated Qualifications Framework and progression through levels is serial (4-5-6-7).

There are however several noteworthy benefits to a certification scheme when compared to alternative routes of qualification:

  • As this scheme has been developed in accordance with the requirements of ISO 17024:2012, certification against this standard has true international value – perhaps an important factor in a post-Brexit world. • Much like the learning provider scheme, an integral requirement is that certificate holders are periodically reassessed in order to evidence their ongoing clinical competency. Uniquely, reassessment takes the form of a submission of CPD records and a post-graduation competency logbook. Not only do these requirements meet the appraisal criteria set by the CPSA, but they allow for practitioners to demonstrate accountability through the maintenance of IQ Verify certificate ownership. Whilst this has clear value in pursuit of maintaining the currency of clinical competence, it has particular value to those who lack accountability to a professional body. Most importantly, both of these factors are significant as we work towards informing and protecting clients/ patients undertaking cosmetic treatments.

For these reasons, the value of certification in accordance with ISO Standards was recognised within the original HEE report and the above framework is being considered by the JCCP. In the absence of official JCCP recognition, and again in pursuit of raising training standards and protecting public safety, IQ Verify will hold a publicly available register that identifies successful training schools and candidates alike.