BLOCKCHAIN

 How blockchain-enabled verification can help transform the post-Brexit healthcare sector

By René Seifert, co-founder of TrueProfile.io

The UK’s healthcare sector has undoubtedly been under increased strain over the last decade, with a growing level of staff shortages in NHS trusts across most levels of seniority. In fact, a recent report projected that staff shortfalls in the NHS will grow from over 100,000 in 2018 to almost 250,000 by 2030.

In light of this, healthcare organisations are looking to address these shortages, but this will not come without its challenges and Brexit will undoubtedly have an additional role to play.

The post-Brexit candidate verification challenge

With Brexit now underway, the NHS is expected to close this gap by opening the door to an influx of healthcare professionals from across the globe. However, this means that NHS recruiters, HR managers and healthcare regulators will be left with a challenging dilemma: making sure that they take advantage of global healthcare talent to address staff and skills shortages, whilst also ensuring candidates’ professional and academic credentials are authentic.

The latter point is critical, as demonstrated by a recent high-profile case where a senior NHS boss gained his job by falsely stating he had a degree. This isn’t just a one-off occurrence, as insights from the DataFlow Group, industry leaders within the verification industry, have revealed that the highest trend for forgery over the last five years has been found among allied health professionals and nurses.

This has been allowed to happen because, until recently, professional document verification has been a long, costly and complex process. In turn, this has led to a high rate of unverified candidates and fraudulent applicants slipping through the net, particularly in the UK healthcare sector.

This will be important in the context of the post-brexit NHS and the recruitment of international healthcare professionals, as verifying the credentials of any candidate from overseas is often a lengthy process that can be difficult to perform without competent regional knowledge and contacts. Add to this the complexities of a language barrier and the process becomes near impossible.

The answer: modernising professional document verification practices

Put simply, to help NHS recruiters adapt to the changing landscape of prospective workers, the solution lies in implementing more modern and innovative verification procedures.

On the one hand, this can help streamline the recruitment process, which will help the sector to benefit from the advantages offered by the expected influx of overseas healthcare professionals. On the other, modernising the verification process will help the sector to avoid compromising on a high-quality and secure authentication process for candidates’ professional and academic credentials.

Fortunately, technology can facilitate the necessary reform of the post-Brexit hiring process and make the lives of both NHS recruiters and potential candidates a whole lot easier.

The role that blockchain can play 

Blockchain is a shared, distributed file that records transactions. Each transaction is added as a block and is stored decentralised in the chain. This means that no central party has control over its content, and nobody can tamper with the records because every member has to agree to its validity and can check the history of record changes. This is not the first time blockchain has been mentioned in the context of healthcare, particularly when it comes to medical records being stored on the blockchain to provide absolute proof and confidence that they cannot be altered.

However, blockchain technology is an innovation in the context of professional document verification and its implications for addressing verification challenges in the NHS post-Brexit could be enormous. For instance, if overseas applicants can access a secure portal to upload and verify their professional documents and data onto blockchain, they will be able to have a form of portable credentials. UK regulators, HR managers and NHS recruiters will then be able to view and verify candidates’ credentials against the blockchain, saving valuable time in the hiring process. Due to the decentralised nature of blockchain, this scenario offers a ‘verify once, use forever’ approach to verification, further reducing the strain on those in charge of hiring applicants from overseas. In addition, by offering an online and on-demand primary source verification (PSV) solution, it will also ensure that candidates’ credentials are authentic and issued by an accredited institution.

So, for regulators and NHS recruiters, blockchain can help to drastically streamline the verification process by eliminating the continual churn of verification requests on employers and educational institutions every time a healthcare professional applies for a new role. In addition, this also eliminates the risk of hiring unqualified, fraudulent individuals, ensuring that patients and co-workers are protected.

For candidates themselves, the verification process is also expedited as their credentials only need to be verified once before being saved on the blockchain. They can then share this with potential employers at any point during their careers, rather than having to be verified each time when applying for a role.

The success of the NHS post-Brexit depends on improved verification practices

NHS recruiters and HR managers are on the cusp of a significant challenge: making sure they take advantage of the incoming pool of global healthcare talent to address staff and skills shortages, whilst also ensuring candidates’ professional and academic credentials are authentic. In order to tackle this head on and help the NHS to achieve its ambition of becoming one of the foremost healthcare organisations globally, it will need to transform and modernise its candidate verification processes.

With emerging technologies beginning to be innovatively applied across different industries, there are tools available to help facilitate this reform of verification procedures. As such, now is the time for industry regulators and NHS recruiters to turn to blockchain-enabled document verification services, in order to empower their hiring processes as post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ takes off.

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