NHS agency sets up return-to-work procedures for doctors and dentists

The National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS), which is part of the NHS’s National Patient Safety Agency, has launched a national framework for helping doctors and dentists return to safe practice after time away from the profession.

 Previously procedures for getting doctors and dentists back to work have varied across the country, with little opportunity to develop greater consistency.

At any time a small but significant minority of doctors and dentists are found to have skills that fall short of those needed for safe practice. The individual may need to undergo a local investigation, review or formal clinical assessment that may identify concerns that need to be addressed.

Other practitioners may need help to get back to work following an absence from practice for a variety of reasons.

The guidance, Back on Track – Restoring doctors and dentists to safe professional practice, is a resource to guide local arrangements for practitioners who are returning to work.

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer in England, said: “Over the past seven years or so I have been emphasising the need to improve the quality and safety of healthcare. Early identification, coupled with an accurate and fair assessment of a doctor’s problems, then a rigorous plan to restore them to safe practice, wherever possible, is the key to success of the NCAS programme.”

In July Donaldson published a review of professional regulation in which he proposed a much greater emphasis on rehabilitation of doctors at all stages in local or national disciplinary processes and assessment procedures.

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