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National Patient Safety Agency

Lord Owen: 'Reinforcing concept of vocational care is key to managing disruptive behaviour amongst practitioners'

10 February 2011


The former leader of the Social Democratic Party, Lord David Owen, has said disruptive behaviour amongst health professionals is most appropriately dealt with by maintaining and reinforcing the concept of vocational care, not by regulation.


Lord Owen, a qualified doctor and who led the SDP between 1983 and 1987, told around 600 delegates at this year’s National Clinical Assessment Service Conference he welcomed NCAS’ work to help in the diagnosis and prevention of such behavioural problems.


Speaking at the event in London, Lord Owen explained: “The medical profession has been the subject of much legislation and administrative change in the last two decades aimed at improving accountability and professional standards.


“Much of this effort has shifted the emphasis from punishment to remedy. 


“The concept of monitoring and checking the behaviour of such health professionals with a view to taking positive action like mentoring must be, in principle, a good thing.


“I welcome the potential NCAS has to help in the diagnosis and the prevention of hubris syndrome which, as I have argued, I would expect to be more often found in those doctors who hold power over the many rather than a few patients”.


Lord Owen added: “Disruptive behaviour amongst health professionals, I would suggest, is best controlled not by regulation but by maintaining and reinforcing the very concept of vocational care.  The art of practicing good medicine is a check on disruptive behaviour which I suggest cannot be ignored by regulators”.


The conference, NCAS’ tenth, was aimed at helping anyone who directly deals with concerns about practitioner behaviour.   It focused on understanding the issues that cause difficult behaviour and how managers can access and use resources, produced by NCAS, to address these issues.


Director of NCAS, Professor Alastair Scotland, said: “I am delighted with the response and feedback that we’ve received so far from delegates who were there”. 


Professor Scotland added: “At a time of great change within the health service, NCAS will continue operating to offer practical guidance and help to NHS organisations dealing with concerns about practitioner behaviour. 


“The earlier we can intervene in such concerns, the better it will be for the safety of patients and the protection of the public”.


For more information about the work of NCAS, please visit www.ncas.nhs.uk






Notes to editors


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 until the service becomes self funding – expected within two-three years.

3.  For other information about this press release, please contact Simon Morgan, Senior Communications Manager, on 0207 062 1631/07500 224240 or e-mail simon.morgan@ncas.npsa.nhs.uk