In response to the recent article in the Daily Record on 24 July 2023, The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland, often referred to by the acronym REHIS, is the Professional Institute for Environmental Health in Scotland, responded as follows.

The delivery of the Environmental Health Service in Scotland lies primarily with Scotland’s local authorities with Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) carrying the responsibility of many statutory roles. EHOs are public health professionals, educated to degree level and professionally qualified. Their primary objective is to improve and protect the health of Scotland’s people.

The Institute is the awarding body for the qualification which permits an individual to work as an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) and Food Safety Officer (FSO) in Scotland. To qualify as an EHO in Scotland requires academic study, structured professional practice, and completion of a professional examination. 

Student EHOs are required to achieve a BSc (Hons) accredited degree in Environmental Health and follow this by attaining the REHIS Diploma in Environmental Health.  The current accredited course is the BSc (Hons) in Environmental Health with Professional Practice at the University of the West of Scotland. The REHIS Diploma requires 48 weeks practical training (which is now integrated into the degree programme) followed by the submission of a portfolio and then oral examinations covering all areas of Environmental Health.

The route to qualifying to be an EHO provides a clear, evidenced qualification which shows the level of skills and knowledge an officer holds.  This is vital when giving advice and guidance to business and particularly when enforcement action, which may result in legal court proceedings, is taken.   One of the unique elements of the profession is that EHOs can take a holistic view of a situation to determine impact on public health.

The Institute recognised that aspiring EHOs might have completed Honours or Masters degree programmes in relevant subject areas earlier in their career and might not be in a position to return to full-time education to complete the accredited degree programme. An Alternative Route has been established which allows individuals with relevant qualifications and experiences to apply for an assessment of these, to determine whether they have the requisite knowledge to pursue the professional EHO qualification. Such professionals may be required to complete additional academic learning and further practical experience but could progress to the professional examination without completing the entire accredited route.

The Institute also operates the Scottish Food Safety Officers Registration Board (SFSORB) which awards the Higher Certificate in Food Practice, the professional qualification required to practice as a Food Safety Officer (FSO) and carry out food law official controls in the UK.

The Institute, whilst committed to maintaining and enhancing the professional standards and qualifications of the Environmental Health workforce in Scotland, is concerned with the current challenges facing local authority Environmental Health workforce.  It is recognised, that whilst there are improvements made with the integrated degree programme and the alternative route, it will take some years to resolve the situation.  The Institute continues to work with national partners including the Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland, the Scottish Government, and Skills Development Scotland, to promote and attract candidates to the profession to ensure a sustainable workforce to meet the national public health need right now and for the future.

For further information