We have been exploring how Primary Authority (PA) could play a role in the Regulating Our Future Model. Our focus has been considering the concept of National Inspection Strategies (NIS) for food safety partnerships.
Here’s an animation on our work around Primary Authority and National Inspection Strategies.
Primary Authority was launched across England and Wales in 2009 by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to improve and streamline the enforcement of regulation by local authorities. It offers businesses an opportunity to form a legally recognised partnership with a local authority (the primary authority). Through these partnerships, the primary authority provides advice for other local authorities to consider when carrying out inspections or dealing with non-compliance. This makes it easier for businesses to receive assured, consistent regulatory advice that makes complying with environmental health, trading standards, licensing and fire safety regulations simpler.
National Inspection Strategy
Under NIS, the primary authority can decide, based on evidence that the business (or group of businesses) is well managed, that a lower number or a more tailored style of regulatory interventions are appropriate. In this instance, the business(es) continue to be properly regulated and public safety assured.
Developing National Inspection Strategies
During early 2017, we brought together eight primary authority partnerships to discuss how NIS might work in practice. This resulted in a feasibility study that explored the concept for food safety NIS, and the drafting of a set of criteria to form the basis of an FSA standard for primary authority partnerships that wish to develop a NIS.
Our next step was to explore how primary authorities could access and use business data to predict local level compliance. We began by developing a pathfinder project, which launched in autumn 2017. Working with six primary authority partnerships, the project analysed the primary authorities’ assessments of business data and compared this with findings from local authority hygiene inspections to determine whether the primary authority’s assessment and local authority inspection outcomes are consistent.
Our aim was to find out:
- whether primary authorities were able to access and interpret data
- what business data is most useful
- what data is critical to primary authority partnerships who go on to develop NIS
This Pathfinder is the first step in helping us to understand what data access will be important for the NIS of the future.
FSA setting the Standards
We have been working to develop three FSA NIS draft Standards. These draft standards have been developed in conjunction with primary authorities and businesses taking part in the pathfinder, Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as well as seeking contribution, views and comments from a range of stakeholders.
NIS, operating in accordance with the FSA NIS Standards will be one form of Regulated Private Assurance within the assurance hierarchy triangle. The standards form a framework to ensure NIS are robust and operate with the right level of oversight.
DRAFT National Inspection Strategy Primary Authorities’ Standard
Primary authority partnerships will have to meet this Standard before we will recognise their NIS. It will require the primary authority to demonstrate and provide evidence on the following:
- to provide evidence of their capacity, resilience and competence
- that they have reviewed and verified the business’ management controls and systems in relation to food safety
- that they have arrangements in place to access and review the business’ systems that demonstrate compliance with food law
- that the business has suitable processes to identify and rectify non-compliances in a timely way.
DRAFT NIS Recognition Standard
This Standard will apply to the FSA. It will outline how we will assess NIS proposals and the governance we will put in place to provide for a consistent and transparent approach.
DRAFT NIS Assurance Standard
When a NIS is operating there will be a need for FSA assurance that it is working as intended, public health is protected, and to instil confidence and trust in consumers, regulators and business.
Our proposal, developed in conjunction with stakeholders, is for a transparent risk-based system operated by the FSA.
A small number of primary authority partnerships in England are actively considering developing NIS where the primary authority will use business data and information to inform the frequency of local food hygiene inspections. This will give us an opportunity to refine the Standards while testing how they work in practice – for the primary authority partnership, for local authorities and for the FSA in ‘assuring the assurers’.
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