Editor Steve Hards asks if it is time for a reconsideration of the role of the Telecare Services Association (TSA).
With yesterday’s news of the draft EU Telehealth Code of Practice (including telecare) some of the TSA’s members are wondering why it is about to spend up to £25,000 of their money developing one of its own to extend its existing Telecare Code of Practice.
But there is a deeper question that they and the TSA Board members should be considering…
Have the organisation and the industry matured to the point where the TSA’s role as ‘industry association’ and its role as ‘regulator of the social alarms and telecare industry’ (TSA’s Articles of Association 3f and 3a respectively) have become incompatible?
Most trade bodies have requirements of their members in the form of codes of conduct. These are usually around the application of ethical standards in sales practices so that industry outsiders can be reasonably confident that a member company is not a rogue or that there is redress if they are.
Unlike the TSA, most trade organisations check, but do not accredit their members’ technical performance credentials. Indeed, not all TSA member companies are accredited against its code of practice because members comprise a wide range of companies and organisations and the code mostly applies to those that provide services to the public, such as alarm response centres. Conversely, it is not possible for a perfectly respectable, responsible, effective and efficient service company that meets the performance standards to be accredited by the TSA unless it is a member.
This situation sets up an unfortunate tension.
Because many invitations to tender and contracts require accreditation against the TSA code, members that depend on TSA accreditation for continuing in business are completely inhibited from expressing views about wider issues of TSA policy and direction that may be contrary to the views of key directors.
The danger of such a situation is the repression of the kind of internal disagreements and robust discussion that strengthen organisations. This is probably not good for the TSA. It is certainly not good for members. They should not have to wonder from one day to the next whether their trade body is going to be supporting them or putting their livelihood at risk.
With the development of the 3 Million Lives initiative at a time when commissioning savvy has haemorrhaged from the NHS; when new, clueless commissioners will be looking at TSA accreditation as a shorthand for appropriate service and disregarding non-TSA accredited companies that may have products and services which would suit them well, it is surely time to consider whether the interests of the industry would be better served by the separation of the TSA’s powers.
Perhaps it is about time that the TSA reaffirmed is role as industry representative (and conference organiser) and gives up its accreditation role to an independent organisation that could accredit service provider companies regardless of their TSA membership status.
Could the TSA rise to the challenge of keeping up its subscription income just by meeting the needs of its members? Or does it fear that many would leave if it does not hold the accreditation whip?