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National Patient Safety Agency

Pharmacists to get extra support

27 June 2008



Pharmacists will be able to access advice, support and assessment services from the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) from 1 April 2009.


NCAS provides confidential advice and support to health care organisations where the performance of doctors and dentists gives cause for concern. This service will now be available in instances involving pharmacists.


“It has long been recognised that the support NCAS provides would be useful for a wide range of health professional staff. Extending our services to pharmacists and the organisations that look to them for a service is another significant step towards greater public protection,” said Professor Alastair Scotland, Director of NCAS.


“NCAS is there to help resolve the problem; to help health organisations and managers in difficult situations. Wherever it can be achieved, our aim is to help practitioners get back to safe and valued practice,” said Professor Scotland.


NCAS can provide extra support to pharmacists and their employers where local or national systems are inadequate to identify and deal with concerns. NCAS has worked closely with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and will continue to work with the new pharmacy regulator into the future. The regulator will maintain responsibility to deal with fitness to practise issues.


The recent expansion of pharmacists’ roles and their vital contribution to the safe use of medicines by NHS patients, points to the need for enhanced systems to identify and address any performance difficulties.


Employing and contracting organisations, managers or practitioners themselves can contact NCAS for advice and support.


During the next twelve months, NCAS will recruit and train staff, conduct further detailed consultation with stakeholders and develop NCAS’ methods and processes to ensure they meet the needs of pharmacists. 


NCAS services for pharmacists are expected to be in operation in April 2009.




Notes for editors:



  1. For media enquiries please contact Paul Cooney on 020 7927 9351 or paul.cooney@npsa.nhs.uk.

  2. NCAS is an operating division of the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) and its role includes:

    • Helping organisations manage concerns about the performance of individual doctors and dentists.
    • Promoting the development of local and national procedures for preventing, identifying and resolving concerns.
    • Assessing the performance of individual doctors and dentists.
    • Making recommendations about ways in which their performance should be improved.
    • Assisting a practitioner and a health organisation to devise and implement an action plan to address requirements for improvement.
  3. The extension of NCAS services to pharmacists was agreed by the Department of Health, in response to a recommendation in the White Paper Trust, Assurance and Safety – The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century which stated that “The Department should work with NCAS and with stakeholders to review the cost-effectiveness of extending its scope to other health professionals, as suggested by the Public Accounts Committee”.

  4. NCAS does not take on the role of an employer, nor does it function as a regulator. It is established as an advisory body, and the referrer retains responsibility for handling the case throughout the process.

  5. NCAS was established in 2001 for doctors in England. The scope of the service has since been extended to include dentists, the Defence Medical Services, the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service as well as Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

  6.  The National Patient Safety Agency encompasses the National Research Ethics Service, Patient Safety Division and the National Clinical Assessment Service. Our vision is to lead and contribute to improved, safe patient care by informing, supporting and influencing healthcare individuals and organisations. Each division works within its sphere of expertise to improve patient outcomes.