Whistleblowing doctors ‘need more protection’

Whistleblowing doctors ‘need more protection’

14 May 2010

HOSPITAL doctors are too scared to raise concerns over patient care or staff behaviour in case it harms their career, a BMA survey has found.

Of the 384 doctors questioned by the BMA in Scotland, 60 per cent admitted having had an important concern at some point in their career – but 40 per cent of them did not report it. Many thought it would not do any good while others felt that doing so could affect their career. One in ten doctors who did voice concerns said they were told that speaking out could harm their job prospects.

The BMA voiced concerns about the culture within the NHS and called for more protection for doctors to stop whistleblowers from being victimised by managers.

Dr Charles Saunders, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish Consultants Committee, said: “As clinical leaders, doctors have a duty to speak out when they have concerns. However, as the results of this survey bear out, this is not always possible or effective.

“We have concerns around the culture of many NHS organisations. Doctors tell us they fear their careers can be affected by speaking out. This is completely wrong. We must move to a culture where every individual in a health organisation can raise concerns that are looked at and acted upon appropriately.”

The findings were published in the BMA’s survey, Standing Up for Doctors; Speaking Out for Patients. Of those who took part, around 80 per cent did not know about their NHS board’s whistleblowing policy. Almost half of concerns (44 per cent) were about standards of care while 37 per cent related to behaviour of colleagues. Around one-fifth of cases were about targets or strategies of NHS boards.

Dr Sue Robertson, Chairman of the BMA’s Scottish Staff and Associate Specialists Committee, added: “Many NHS employers make speaking out difficult or dangerous for an individual doctor. That is why we are calling for a concerted effort by the NHS to improve on the awareness and implementation of whistleblowing policies.

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