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National Patient Safety Agency

New good practice guide will help practitioners get back on track

3 December 2010

The National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) has published a new good practice guide aimed at helping doctors, dentists and pharmacists return to safe and valued practice. 

The Back on Track Framework is a completely new edition of the guide of the same name published in 2006 and builds on NCAS’ ten years of experience in tackling concerns about professional practice.  It describes how NCAS approaches work with practitioners for whom further training is proposed as a way of resolving concerns about their practice or where a return to work is proposed following a break from practice.

Concerns about practice might relate to gaps or deficiencies in knowledge and skills, or to difficulties with health or behaviour.  Such concerns might have been identified in a wide range of settings, from NCAS’ own work, through that of the Royal Colleges or the General Medical, Dental or Pharmaceutical Councils, to local investigation or other governance activity including appraisal.

The guide’s author, NCAS Senior Adviser Claire McLaughlan, explained: “Back on Track is intended to help everyone in the health sector involved in handling cases of returning doctors, dentists and pharmacists to safe and valued practice, whether they be organisations or individual practitioners.   It can be used wherever the practitioners work - general practice, community and hospital sectors and whatever their specialty, grade or employment status.

“The good practice guide has been designed to allow those using it to adopt a structured, practical, affordable and achievable approach to some of the most complex and challenging aspects of professional governance – getting someone back to valued practice where there have been concerns.

“Back on Track contains templates for action plans which can be adapted for local use; identifies ways of identifying and addressing training needs and suggests ways of monitoring plans.”
Ms McLaughlan added: “We first set our approach to further training programmes in an earlier version of Back on Track published in 2006.  We know that the earlier version was widely used throughout the service and we hope that this new version, built on our increased experience of developing action plans across professions, will be equally well received. This means that NCAS can help health services not only understand the concerns but also resolve them.”

Reviewing those cases which have completed the further training process with NCAS since 2008, two thirds have successfully returned to work to provide safe and valued care to patients.

Professor Alastair Scotland, Director of NCAS, said: “Helping restore safe and valued practice, while assuring safe services and the confidence of the public and patients has been a great challenge to everyone working in this field.   And it has never been more topical, as we grapple with the need to put in place systems for revalidation of health professional staff.  This is vitally important if we are not only to assure the safety of patients and the protection of the public, but also to provide real opportunities for practitioners to re-establish their vocation.  

“The original NCAS Back on Track guide from 2006 set us on a clear path to tackling these challenges.  This new guide takes that to a new level, with its clear focus on delivering practical, achievable and affordable approaches, and delivering them as close as possible to the front line of healthcare.    Not only does that assure high quality care, but it also enables healthcare in the UK to retain highly qualified practitioners.”

To download a copy of Back on Track, please visit http://www.ncas.npsa.nhs.uk/resources/good-practice-guides/back-on-track/



Notes to Editors

1.   For further information, please contact Simon Morgan, Senior Communications Manager, on

07500 224240 or e-mail simon.morgan@ncas.npsa.nhs.uk

2.   NCAS was set up in 2001 and provides advice, support and formal assessment in respect of doctors, dentists and pharmacists.  Earlier this year, the Department of Health published its review of Arms’ Length Bodies – Liberating the NHS: Report of the arms-length bodies review. Although the report announced the abolition of the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), it did state that NCAS functions would continue.  NCAS is working towards becoming a self funding body as well as finding a new host organisation by mid 2011.