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How to raise a patient safety concern

  1. 23. We recognise that raising concerns about patient care can be difficult. As a medical student, you may not feel comfortable raising issues with supervisors who may be responsible for making assessments of your performance on the placement. You may also feel uncomfortable raising concerns with senior clinicians. This is why you should, wherever possible, follow your medical school’s formal policy on raising concerns, which will help you understand how to deal with difficult issues like these.
  2. 24. In exceptional circumstances, you may not feel comfortable following the medical school’s policy (for example because the person causing the concern is the person you have to raise it with), but you must still find another way to raise your concern. For example, you can talk to a member of staff with whom you have an ongoing relationship, such as your personal tutor, who can support you. If the concern arises while you are on a placement, you may also find it helpful to refer to the placement provider’s raising concerns policy.
  3. 25. It can be difficult for organisations to deal with anonymous concerns, because it’s more difficult to investigate the situation if they don’t know who made the complaint. Therefore, you should avoid raising concerns anonymously wherever possible. Remember that, although your medical school will know who raised the concern, they won’t necessarily need to name you as the source of concern when they investigate.
  4. 26. If you’re not sure whether you should raise a concern formally, you should ask your medical school or an experienced healthcare professional for advice. GMC guidance to doctors on raising concerns acknowledges issues like this, including, for example, if the person causing concern is part of the problem or the doctor doesn’t have confidence that the concern will be addressed adequately based on previous experiences. You may therefore find our Steps to raise a concern guidance helpful.

Practical tip #5: What if my concern is about my friend or peers?

It can be difficult to raise concerns about fellow students, who may be people you work with on projects or placements or your friends. But as a student choosing to join a regulated profession, it is your duty to put patients first and this includes patients you see on placements and those treated by your fellow students in the future.

You might be concerned about the behaviour of a fellow student, for example if they are:

  • rude to a patient
  • does not contribute to group work you’ve been assigned
  • posts inappropriate content on social media (see Practical tip #9: Social media dos and don’ts)
  • is intoxicated when attending a placement, lecture or seminar.

It can be even harder to raise concerns about a peer’s health, but you must bring this to the attention of your medical school if you are worried about their safety or wellbeing. You should never attempt to treat a fellow student’s health condition and when you raise your concerns - it’s important to remember that this will enable your medical school to give them help and support.