Belfast Telegraph

Blame culture forcing Northern Ireland doctors to consider quitting, top medic warns

Stark assessment: Dr Tom Black
Stark assessment: Dr Tom Black

By Gillian Halliday

Doctors in Northern Ireland feel increasingly "vulnerable" to criminal proceedings in the workplace - forcing them to consider abandoning the profession, a senior medic will warn today.

Dr Tom Black will say that consultants here are operating in a "hostile working culture" as a result of the situation.

Dr Black, who is chairperson of the British Medical Association NI, will outline his stark assessment as he addresses the organisation's annual conference, which is being held in Belfast.

He explained that medics are increasingly fearful of the professional repercussions if they make a medical error amid pressured case loads.

"Doctors feel vulnerable to criminal and regulatory proceedings, and this creates a hostile training environment for our medical students, young doctors," he will say.

"This blame and sanction culture creates disrespect and mistrust. This has a price - it encourages risk avoidance behaviours in professionals, inefficient and ineffective management, increased cost for the system and deteriorating services for patients."

According to Dr Black, surveys of consultants, who are BMA members and working in Northern Ireland, have found that three in five doctors said their fear of reporting a medical error had increased in the last year.

He will warn: "Life as a doctor in the NHS has become more difficult due to the increasing needs of patients, the bureaucracy of NHS organisations, the constraints imposed by professional bodies.

"The main reasons for medical errors is pressure or lack of capacity in the workplace, followed by system failure and human error."

A BMA survey also revealed that 56% of doctors fear being unfairly blamed for errors due to pressures in the workplace and system failings.

Dr Black will warn that the problem is being exacerbated by the "continual criticism and sanction from great swathes of society who appear to be obsessed with victimising individual doctors".

Stressing that senior doctors "no longer" want to work in toxic environments, Dr Black will say the health service needs to be properly funded to tackle the issue effectively.

He will tell delegates: "The way forward is clear. We need a more fair and just culture where investigations focus on learning not scapegoating, blame and sanction.

"We need to recognise that the NHS is a system under pressure and provide better support for doctors under investigation."

Dr Black will urge health service managers need "to stop prioritising targets over care, and look after their staff properly".

He will say that society needs to understand that the profession has been pushed too far and there is a need to fix the "hostile culture" that doctors work in.

Dr Black will use his address to call for additional staff and resources, as well as a "positive training environment" for medical students here.

He will say senior doctors need to be afforded the "autonomy and flexibility" to bring change to the health service, and will cite the ongoing Stormont impasse for adding to the pressures faced by his peers.

The BMA's annual conference debates policy and issues faced by the medical profession. More than 500 doctors from across the UK will attend the event.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph