Patient safety and public protection remain our paramount concerns. But we acknowledge the challenges faced by healthcare practitioners, particularly during challenging times.
Practitioners should follow standards and guidance. However, in circumstances where practitioners need to operate differently, judgments may need to be made, but still taking into account existing frameworks and principles.
A new or returning practitioner or one operating outside of their normal scope of practice has a responsibility to confirm they are competent to perform the tasks they are being asked to perform. It may sometimes be appropriate for there to be a degree of reskilling, supervision and assessment to provide assurance that a practitioner is performing at the expected level.
Where concerns arise they must still be managed and appropriate action taken to protect patient safety. However, concerns must be managed on the individual circumstances of the case. Decisions about what action to take in response to concerns will need to factor in the requirements of service delivery.
Where procedures relating to the management of concerns cannot be taken forward or are delayed, the practitioner must be kept informed and the decisions taken must take into account the welfare of the practitioner.
We believe that organisations should foster a just and learning culture which balances fairness, justice and learning when things have not gone as planned. For more information on this please see NHS Resolution’s ‘Being fair’ publication.
Who contacts us?
Most enquiries we receive come from employers or contracting organisations of which the practitioner (doctor, dentist or pharmacist) is working for about whom there are concerns. Contact is usually made by a senior member of staff, such as a Medical Director, a Director of HR or a Head of Primary Care. However, we can receive initial contact from any representative of the employer or contracting organisation, providing they have the delegated authority to act on behalf of that organisation.
We’re keen to support Responsible Officers in their roles. When handling concerns about doctors’ performance that may come to their attention, either through local processes or through appraisal, Responsible Officers are required to take note of the advice we provide.
Some requests for help come directly from practitioners. This may be because they are concerned about some aspect of their own practice, or perhaps because they wish to access advice about rebuilding their skills after a career break. Occasionally, requests come from whistle-blowers and although we are not set up primarily as a referral point for whistle-blowers, 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 we can help you or your organisation, please contact us to discuss. You are under no commitment to continue using us after the first contact; if we are not able to help we can usually put you in touch with someone who can.
When should you contact us?
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.
When should the healthcare practitioner be informed?
We would strongly advise that a representative from the referring body talks with the practitioner about their concerns and the contact they’ve had with us except where this would compromise the investigation of the case (for example, where there is alleged fraud or criminal activity).
Who will deal with the case?
Our Adviser team are comprised of senior staff from a variety of backgrounds in the clinical, managerial and legal professions. They have considerable experience in handling concerns about professional practice. Advisers provide telephone or face-to-face advice and can confirm and supplement the advice given orally in a letter to you following the call. Our Advisers are now aligned regionally to Trusts and NHS England regions which allow you to have one contact point for all cases. They remain responsible for our contribution to the case throughout our involvement.
For services in England, Northern Ireland and Wales call us on 020 7811 2600. You can also email us at nhsr.Advice@nhs.net.
Alternatively you can request a call back from us by using this form below:
Request a call from Practitioner Performance Advice
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