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'Fearful doctors stay silent over concerns'

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'Fearful doctors stay silent over concerns'

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Doctors in Scottish hospitals are failing to raise concerns over patient care or the behaviour of other staff because they fear that their careers may be jeopardised

A as a result, according to a survey by the British Medical Association.

The survey found that 40 per cent of the 384 doctors questioned were too frightened of repercussions to report their worries.

The association is now calling for NHS doctors to be given more protection from their managers and demanded that health boards publicise their whistle-blowing policies. It said the culture in the health service was “wrong” and that doctors should not be afraid to speak out.

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.”

Dr Saunders insisted change had to be led from “the very top”. “Ministers and NHS board members need to send a clear message that they want to hear about things they can do better,” he said.

Almost four fifths of the doctors who took part in the survey, entitled Standing up For Doctors; Speaking Out For Patients, were not aware of their health board’s whistle-blowing policy for employees. About six in every 10 doctors said they had experienced occasions when they have had important concerns about working practices or the behaviour of staff, but only 60 per cent of that number reported it.

Those who did not, believed that either reporting their worries would make no difference or that they feared the consequences of doing so. One in 10 doctors who did raise concerns said it had been indicated to them that raising their heads above the parapet could have a negative impact on their employment.

Almost half of concerns, 44 per cent, were regarding standards of care, and 37 per cent were over the behaviour of colleagues. About one in five cases related to targets or strategies of NHS boards.

Jackie Baillie, Labour's health spokeswoman, urged ministers to intervene over the issue. “I would like to see Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon taking action to ensure that a culture of openness and transparency is encouraged and the views of staff are valued,” she said.

Ross Finnie, health spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “It is concerning that many health care professionals don't know how to blow the whistle.
“When a complaint is made it must be handled appropriately and must be brought to a conclusion.

A Scottish government spokeswoman emphasised that the health service had policies in place to allow staff to raise concerns.

She said: Every health board in the country has procedures to protect staff who raise concerns.

Indeed, the freedom of speech policy that boards have to follow, states that boards will not tolerate harassment or victimisation of any member of staff who raises a concern and that includes informal pressure.

Any example of that kind of behaviour would be treated as a serious disciplinary offence.

Credit: www.timesonline.co.uk




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