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National Patient Safety Agency

NCAS in high demand as NHS organisations prepare for revalidation

11 January 2011

The National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) has dealt with its highest number of referrals in a six month period, as NHS organisations prepare for revalidation.


The growth was seen amongst referrals of doctors specifically (423 in April-September 2010, compared with 363 in the same period in 2009), according to figures published today.


Director of NCAS, Professor Alastair Scotland, said: “I believe the statistics are linked to efforts by NHS organisations to strengthen governance systems in advance of medical revalidation coming into force, rather than an upsurge in performance problems.


“These data point to a concerted effort by health services to go upstream and address difficulties at the earliest opportunity”.


In the six month period between April-September 2010, NHS organisations made 525 requests for advice on handling of concerns about practitioner performance.  In 33 cases NCAS was asked for general advice about the most effective way of managing concerns but most of the requests, 492, were about the work of specific practitioners. 


Professor Alastair Scotland, added: “NCAS works closely with NHS organisations to support local systems for dealing with performance concerns.  I believe we have even more to offer in this new governance context.  If revalidation is effective, we should see concerns identified well before they become ingrained and much more difficult to address, with the clear aim of avoiding harm to patients’’.


Other statistics in this latest operational report show continuing wide use of NCAS services. Amongst just over 400 NHS organisations providing patient services in the UK in 2010:


• 231 organisations across the UK made at least one referral to NCAS in the first six months of 2010/11 – more than one organisation in two;

• At the end of September 2010 NCAS cases were active/open in 207 NHS organisations - again, more than one organisation in two.


Professor Scotland continued: “It is clear with this increased demand on our service that there is a continuing commitment across the NHS to governance and quality.  NCAS aims to be part of frontline governance and quality of health services and it is gratifying that these figures reflect this”.


“They also show that medical directors continue to position NCAS as a key part of their governance arrangements within their organisations.  We are delighted that our service will continue to provide such support in the future”.


For further information, please see the 2010-11 mid-year casework activity report at www.ncas.npsa.nhs.uk/publications/statistics/


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.  Certain statistics produced by NPSA and NCAS are designated ‘official’ (by the Official Statistics Order 2009 – SI2001 no 753). Casework activity reports are one of three NCAS official statistics products and NCAS was guided in its production by the requirements of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics published in 2009 by the UK Statistics Authority. For more information about the current report or other NCAS statistics, contact the Information and Knowledge Management Team on 0207 062 1655.

4.  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