Patient and public attitudes to standards expected of doctors

What were the key findings?

  • Participants’ central concern that doctors should provide the medical treatment or advice that a patient needs in a safe and consistent way, and that doctors have a role to play in supporting patients in difficult circumstances to access healthcare services. Good communication and listening to patients were seen as crucial to this. Other issues were seen as important to the extent that they impacted on a doctor’s ability to provide the medical treatment or advice that patients needs.

  • In general doctors were expected to leave their personal beliefs ‘at the door’, providing treatment or advice in a non-judgemental way and not allowing their views to interfere with the treatment or care provided. It was recognised that some personal beliefs could impact on patient care, such as doctors’ views on abortion. There were mixed views about how this should be dealt with. Those who opposed abortion felt that doctors should have the right to refer such cases to their colleagues. Other participants regarded providing such procedures as a requirement of a doctor’s role.

  • Doctors were seen as having a right to privacy but were expected to maintain a dividing line between their public and private lives. However, criminal behaviour by doctors was considered significant, whether or not it impacted on patient care, because it could undermine patient’s trust in doctors. Participants also expected employers to support doctors in difficulty in their personal life, to avoid the issues affecting them to the point where patient care would suffer.

  • If a doctor has financial interests that might present a conflict of interest, the research participants felt that the doctor must declare this interest and this would be sufficient as long as patient care wasn’t affected.

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The standards expected of doctors: Patient and public attitudes