How to contact NCAS
Who contacts NCAS?
What type of concern?
When to make contact
Who will deal with the case?
Informing the practitioner
Guidance from government health departments
Terms we use and what they mean
The NCAS core office hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. All our contact numbers can be found here. We provide a 24-hour service and our out of hours emergency contact number for all offices is 020 7972 2999. A recorded message will provide you with a mobile number on which to contact the on-call NCAS adviser. NCAS’ contact number for general enquiries is also 020 7972 2999.
Most requests come from the employer/contracting body of the practitioner about whom there are concerns. Contact is usually made by a senior member of staff such as the Medical Director, Dental Adviser or Director of Pharmacy. However, we can receive initial contact from any representative of the employer/contracting body, providing they have the delegated authority
to act on behalf of that body.
NCAS is keen to support Responsible Officers in their role. When handling concerns about doctors’ performance that may come to their attention, either through local processes or through appraisal, Responsible Officers are required to have regard to advice provided by NCAS.
Some requests for help come from practitioners themselves (‘self-referrals’). This may be because they are concerned about some aspect of their own practice, or perhaps because they feel the need to rebuild their skills after a career break.
Occasionally, requests come from whistleblowers and although NCAS is not set up primarily as a referral point for whistleblowers, we have procedures in place to respond to concerns raised by them.
Although we are not able to take referrals directly from members of the public, if they contact us, we will advise them how to direct their concerns to the bodies best placed to help them.
If you are in any doubt about whether NCAS can help you or your organisation, please contact us to discuss. You are under no commitment to continue using us after the first contact, and if we are not able to help we can usually put you in touch with someone who can.
NCAS deals with a wide variety of concerns about practice. About half of concerns coming to NCAS relate to clinical practice, for example, a practitioner’s diagnostic or consultation skills, record keeping or prescribing. Two-thirds relate to behaviour and conduct, often relating to difficulty in
communication with colleagues or patients. In about a quarter of cases there is some concern about a practitioner’s health which may be affecting their performance. However concerns are rarely seen in isolation and are often present as a variety of concerns across domains of practice, health and behaviour.
We are keen that concerns about practice are identified and resolved early, to prevent harm to patients and increase the opportunity for the individual to return to safe practice. Our advice is therefore to contact us as early as possible and to provide us with as much information as you can about the case. We can discuss a case without the need for you to identify the individual practitioner in the first instance.
The NCAS adviser team comprises senior staff from a variety of backgrounds in the clinical, managerial and legal professions. All of them have considerable experience in handling concerns about professional practice. Advisers provide telephone or face to face advice and will confirm and supplement the advice given orally in a letter to you following the call. Advisers remain responsible
for NCAS’ contribution to the case throughout our involvement and, in addition, a designated member of our case management staff will support the progress of the case.
We would strongly advise that a representative from the referring body talks with the practitioner about their concerns and the contact with NCAS except where this would compromise the investigation of the case (for example, where there is alleged fraud or criminal activity).
NCAS is a confidential service. By this we mean that we will not normally disclose the details of a case to a party other than the referred practitioner or their employer/contracting body, or even confirm that a case has been discussed with us. There are, however, circumstances where we will disclose information, such as where it is in the overriding public interest to do so or where we are otherwise legally required to do so; in those circumstances the principles of the Data Protection Act will guide disclosure. Further details about how NCAS uses and shares information can be found by reading our Privacy Notice. NCAS has a legal services team which deals with enquiries about information sharing, and requests for information made under the Data Protection Act and/or the Freedom of Information Act. Enquiries can be made by email or telephone to the Information Access Manager.
Government health departments issue advice, guidance or regulations to health services on when they should use services such as those provided by NCAS and on procedures such as the exclusion or suspension of practitioners. Information on any changes to the advice or regulations should be available from the relevant government website and you should check for the latest
Organisation - a health care organisation employing or contracting with doctors, dentists or pharmacists.
Practitioner - the doctor, dentist or pharmacist from the groups within NCAS’ current remit.
Concerns about practice - any aspects of a practitioner’s practice, performance, conduct or behaviour which may:
• pose a threat to patient safety or public protection
• expose services to financial or other substantial risk
• undermine the reputation or efficiency of services in some significant way
• be outside acceptable professional or working practice guidelines and standards.
Referring body - any employer, contracting or commissioning organisation which contacts NCAS for advice about a practitioner.