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National Patient Safety Agency

Director of NCAS, Professor Alastair Scotland, announces his retirement

23 MAY 2011


Professor Alastair Scotland, Director of the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS), has announced his decision to retire from the NHS after a career spanning four decades.


Professor Scotland, who will reach 60 in August, graduated in medicine from Aberdeen University after which he trained in surgery.  He entered public health medicine in 1983, becoming consultant in public health medicine to North East Thames Regional Health Authority in 1988 and its Regional Medical Officer from 1991 to 1994, when he became Medical Director to the Trust Unit in the merged North Thames Regional Health Authority.


In 1996, Professor Scotland moved to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where he was its Director of Medical Education and Research.  Five years later, he established the National Clinical Assessment Authority responsible for resolving concerns about practitioner performance.  “In our first year, we dealt with about 130 requests for help and as we were such a small organisation starting from scratch, I handled every referral myself.  Very rapidly, however, the scope of our services and the demand for them increased and we now deal with in excess of 1,000 cases each year.”  The NCAA was renamed the National Clinical Assessment Service when it merged with the NPSA in 2005.


In addition to leading the work of NCAS, Professor Scotland has a long-standing personal interest in medical education, training, staffing and professional performance, and has served on a number of key national groups in this field, including the Calman Committee, the Ministerial Group on Junior Doctors’ Hours of Work and a number of expert advisory committees.   Professor Scotland also has a personal interest in clinical disputes, complaints and litigation, and in 1996, following the publication of Lord Woolf’s report Access to Justice, he established and chaired the Clinical Disputes Forum for England and Wales, whose work led to a number of changes to the Civil Procedure Rules.   He has lectured and published widely in his fields of interest. 


Commenting on his decision to retire, Professor Scotland said: “It has been an enormous privilege to serve NCAS for the past ten years and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved.  I have had the greatest good fortune to be able to build a terrific team with which it has been consistently wonderful to be associated.   Together, we have never lost sight of the driving principle underpinning NCAS’ work – public protection and the need for patients to know they receive the best possible service from the health professionals who serve them.   I wish my friends and colleagues at NCAS the very best for the future.  It was always my intention to retire from NHS practice when I reached 60, to concentrate on other interests, and I will leave NCAS in August at a time of great opportunity for the service.”


Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, paid tribute to Professor Scotland.  Dame Sally said: “Alastair Scotland has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the NHS, during which time he has made a real and lasting difference to the lives of many individuals. His foresight and leadership has driven the establishment and success of NCAS, a service that has benefited doctors and patients alike.  I regret to see him leave, but would like to wish him well for all the endeavours he embarks upon in the future.”


Professor Scotland lives in Surrey and enjoys antique collecting and restoration, gardening, the theatre and the arts.





1.   NCAS provides general and specialist advice to help organisations address concerns about the practice of individual dentists, doctors or pharmacists or, in some cases, of practice teams. NCAS also undertakes formal assessment of practitioners.


2.   NCAS is currently a division of the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA). In July 2010, the Department of Health published its review of Arm’s Length Bodies – Liberating the NHS: Report of the arms-length bodies review. Although the report announced abolition of NPSA, it did stipulate that NCAS functions are to continue.  NCAS services will continue to remain free to NHS organisations


3.  For other information about this press release, please contact Simon Morgan, Senior Media Manager, on 0207 062 1631 or e-mail smorgan@ncas.nhs.uk