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National Patient Safety Agency

NHS support service opens up to pharmacists

1 April 2009

NCAS today launches its new service for pharmacists to help them handle performance concerns and maintain safe and effective care for their patients and the public. Organisations which employ or contract pharmacists, or the pharmacists themselves, can now receive free and confidential telephone advice, longer term support and on-site performance assessment.

The National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) has eight years experience in helping resolve performance concerns about individual dentists and doctors. From now on the pharmacy profession will also have access to this independent body.

The service was established to bridge the gap between local management and the professional regulator.

Professor Alastair Scotland, Director of NCAS said:

“The vital role that pharmacists play in healthcare delivery is clear. They are part of the multi-professional delivery of healthcare in the twenty-first century, not only providing access to medicines, but also fast and convenient access to health treatments, care and advice to patients and the public.

However as with any profession, lapses in performance can and do happen, which if ignored or left unresolved may become more severe over time and pose a greater risk to the safety of patients and the public. By extending our remit to pharmacy we hope to safeguard their valuable service.

As an advisory body, independent of the regulator, we are here to help, not point the finger. Wherever possible our aim is to help restore safe practice”.

NCAS has worked closely with stakeholders to develop the service for pharmacists and ensure it is robust and effective.

Heidi Wright, Head of Practice for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, said: “We have worked closely with NCAS over the last couple of years to get this new service for pharmacists in place and we wholeheartedly welcome its launch today.  Patients are our number one priority and being able to seek advice on how to resolve performance issues early on will be beneficial for pharmacists, their employers as well as the wider public.”

Dr Keith William Ridge. Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England said: “Pharmacists provide a valuable frontline service for patients including dispensing medicines and treatments and providing trusted health advice.

I welcome the National Clinical Assessment Service's decision to extend its services to pharmacists in this pilot. It will play an important part in maintaining patient safety as pharmacists' central role in patient care and improving the health of the public is enhanced."

The Department of Health England is funding the NCAS service for pharmacists for two years. The service will be thoroughly evaluated.

For media enquiries, please contact the NPSA Press Office:
•    Sara Coakley – 020 7927 9580, sara.coakley@npsa.nhs.uk
•    Out of hours – 07884 115 956

Notes for editors:

1.    The National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) is a division of the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), an Arm’s Length Body of the Department of Health. The NPSA encompasses three divisions; the National Clinical Assessment Service, the National Reporting and Learning Service and the National Research Ethics Service, each of which has its own sphere of expertise to improve patient outcomes. The NPSA’s vision is to lead and contribute to improved, safe patient care by informing, supporting and influencing healthcare individuals and organisations.

2.    NCAS:
•    Works with health organisations and individual practitioners where there is concern about the performance of a dentist, doctor or pharmacist
•    Promotes the development of local and national procedures for preventing, identifying and resolving performance concerns
•    Assesses the performance of individual dentists, doctors and pharmacists
•    Recommends performance improvements
3.    NCAS is an advisory body, independent of the employer and regulator. The referring organisation is responsible for its case from start to finish.

4.    NCAS was originally established in 2001 for doctors in England. Since then its scope has been extended to include dentists, as well as the Defence Medical Services, the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service across England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. For more information visit: www.ncas.npsa.nhs.uk.