INTERVIEW: How healthcare professionals can confidently signpost clients to buy safely in the private market
The blue and white badge of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) is one that healthcare professionals likely come across regularly in their working day, however, often without the understanding of what the logo represents.
To help shine a light on the role the organisation plays in the world of healthcare and assistive technology equipment and service provision, AT Today caught up with Calvin Barnett, Head of Marketing and Communications at the BHTA, during this year’s OT Show.
AT Today: What is the BHTA?
Calvin: We are the consumer protection body for the healthcare and assistive technologies sector. We have over 400 member companies that all voluntarily sign up to our Code of Practice, setting strict rules and requirements that companies have to follow when interacting with customers.
AT Today: What does the Code cover?
Calvin: Our Code is extensive and aims to ensure that healthcare and assistive technologies are sold in an ethical and fair manner. Importantly, the Code exists to stamp out many of the dangerous and unscrupulous practices that, unfortunately, still occur today, such as pressure-selling tactics, or the mis-selling and misrepresentation of products that are not appropriate to the needs of the end-user. It is also the first and only code in the healthcare and assistive technologies arena approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, which rigorously checks us to ensure we are administering the code correctly.
AT Today: Why is the BHTA’s Code of Practice necessary?
Calvin: Our Code provides two really important things for those searching for the right solution to meet their needs: peace of mind and protection.
In terms of peace of mind, healthcare professionals are able to confidently signpost their clients who may wish to buy equipment or services privately to us and our Code-accredited members. Even before the pandemic, the length of time it could take for people who needed equipment or services through the NHS or local authorities had largely been increasing, with OTs and other healthcare professionals seeing ever-growing caseloads. This could risk a client’s condition deteriorating, or delaying a discharge from hospital back into the community. The pandemic has exacerbated this.
Many healthcare professionals tell us that they have clients who are often happy to go into the private market and purchase the equipment they need but are unsure about who to turn to and who to trust. This is really where BHTA and our Code-accredited members can help support.
It means healthcare professionals can confidently point those who are interested in buying privately to the BHTA and recommend that they buy from a member company, because they know that the company has made a commitment to abide by strict rules.
With more products on the market than ever before, and more companies selling equipment as well, it can be very difficult to know if a product is suitable, or if the company really has the best interests of the end-user at heart. The risk is that people may buy equipment that does more harm than good for their health and well-being, or people being financially taken advantage of. Beyond providing peace of mind to individuals that the companies they go to are reputable and professional, our Code also provides important protection for consumers, if disputes do arise.
Calvin: By using a BHTA company, consumers are able to turn to us if they feel a member company that they have bought from has broken the Code. We have the power to investigate the complaint, and hold the member to account if it is found that there has been a breach. We also offer mediation and arbitration if attempts to resolve an issue through a company’s complaints procedure have failed, helping to avoid the stress and potential upset of pursuing a company through the courts.
The goal of the BHTA and its members really is to help raise the standards of the industry, both in terms of the equipment and services that are available, and the providers that retail, install, and supply these.
At the OT Show, we launched our new BHTA consumer guide, explaining how the BHTA and its members support consumers, and the simple five-step process to follow if they feel that a member has breached the code. We distributed over 200 to occupational therapists throughout the two days so they could share it with their clients, and we have just made it available for download online as well.
AT Today: What areas of healthcare and assistive technology do you cover?
Calvin: The association has over 400 members, split across 12 sections of the healthcare and assistive technologies spectrum. These sections range from mobility, stairlifts and access, independent living and pressure care, through to paediatric equipment and continence products. Our members include retailers, outsourced service providers, distributors, manufacturers, consultants and more.
AT Today: Is it compulsory that companies are members of the BHTA?
Calvin: No, becoming a member of the BHTA is voluntary, with companies required to meet certain requirements in order to gain accreditation with our Code.
Our members choose to commit to our Code and be held to account by us because of their dedication to going above and beyond their legal requirements for those they work with. It shows a willingness to have their processes evaluated and audited by a third party that specialises in this industry because they share the same values and goals as the association – to ensure the best level of service and satisfaction to their customers.
AT Today: How can professionals identify if a company is a member of the BHTA?
Calvin: Verifying if a company is a BHTA member is simple. The first thing to do is look for the logo when visiting a company’s website, or to ask them if they are a member of the BHTA.
Healthcare professionals and consumers can also go to the BHTA website and use our member directory to check and see if a company is listed with us.
Alternatively, people are free to contact us via phone or email, and we’ll be able to confirm if a company really is a BHTA member.
AT Today: Alongside the Code of Practice, what else do you do to raise standards in the industry?
Calvin: As an association, our members are also heavily involved in the setting of product and service standards, working with organisations, such as the BSI and ISO, to ensure equipment that is on the market is of a high quality and safe. Again, this work is growing all the more important, with more products entering the market than ever before – sometimes with questionable quality.
We also work in collaboration with many other organisations in the sector, such as DLF, LGA and more, to help create helpful guidance and training, and signpost the important work they do.
AT Today: How can healthcare professionals find out more about the BHTA?
Calvin: To learn more about the BHTA, our Code of Practice, and our members, visit www.BHTA.com
We also encourage any healthcare professional or consumer with a query to contact us at email@example.com