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Only one in 10 doctors is confident in effectiveness of whistleblowing procedures

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  10 May 2012


Only 11% of doctors have confidence in the process for whistleblowing, with almost half (47%) not confident and a similar proportion (42%) unsure, shows a survey of more than 1500 doctors by the Medical Protection Society (MPS).

“Fear of consequences” was the number one reason doctors gave for not having faith in the current process for raising concerns, with almost two thirds (62%) of non-consultant hospital doctors, 41% of GPs, and 47% of consultants citing fear of negative outcomes.

In addition, more than half of the respondents said that they had seen incidents of concern that they wished they had done more about.

Of those who had raised concerns, less than 40% reported that they had their concerns dealt with. A total of 18% of whistleblowing doctors said that they felt isolated after raising concerns, 14% moved location or job, and 12% had health problems. A third (33%) of respondents said that colleagues had supported their decision to blow the whistle.

When asked about factors that supported them in raising concerns, doctors were most likely to cite having supportive management in place as an important factor.

The findings from this survey—sent to 20 225 MPS members in the UK, 1544 (8%) of whom responded—show that more needs to be done to increase the effectiveness of the process for raising concerns, said Stephanie Bown, director of policy and communications at MPS.

“The starting point must be that executive boards take responsibility for creating a culture in which raising concerns is a normal and integral part of providing healthcare,” she said. “In addition, doctors and other healthcare professionals need to have confidence that their managers will support and enable them to fulfil their professional obligations—and they certainly can’t do that if they work in a culture of blame and fear.”

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

 hjaques@bmj.com

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