NHS needs doctors in major role
The profound concern and sadness felt by doctors over the tragedies caused by the failures at Mid-Staffordshire was to be a turning point for politicians, NHS organisations, doctors, managers, nurses and patient groups to work together to create a different kind of culture in the NHS.
In Northern Ireland, the British Medical Association (BMA) committed itself to making the most of the opportunities presented by the 290 recommendations in the Francis Report and, in the past year, we have focused our efforts on those areas where we can best support doctors in playing their full role in ensuring safe care.
The BMA was deeply concerned by the breakdown in professionalism at Mid-Staffordshire which, in some instances, meant that highly-qualified professionals did not exercise a fundamental duty of care towards their patients.
The Francis Report highlighted the need for senior clinical staff to be given greater managerial and leadership responsibilities. The BMA believes doctors must not just be at the forefront of care and treatment, they must be an integral part of decision-making.
They can, and should, play a major role in the drive to improve the culture in the health service.
The BMA urges Minister for Health Edwin Poots to talk to and to listen to senior clinicians and other healthcare professionals as utilising their expertise is vital in making this change happen.
Better engagement between health service leaders, managers and doctors should achieve a more coherent and long-term vision of health service provision.
The BMA believes that professional practice in the health service should be based on a culture of openness, where reporting is seen as a normal, routine and part of clinical governance.
The other area that we are concerned to improve is consistency in how complaints are handled; placing a duty on healthcare providers to listen and learn could send a positive and reassuring sign to staff that they will be heard without fear of punitive action.
The BMA believes that an urgent shift is needed by the health service towards a more open and transparent approach.
Dr Paul Darragh is Northern Ireland council chair of the British Medical Association