Doctors to receive training support to call out unprofessionalism
A pilot programme announced by the General Medical Council (GMC) today will give doctors training in tackling unprofessional behaviours from colleagues which can affect patient safety and outcomes.
The training has been developed in response to growing evidence that, although the vast majority of doctors deliver great care for their patients, unprofessional behaviour by some has a direct impact on the safe care of patients.
In one study 14 per cent of doctors and nurses reported being aware of specific adverse events related to an episode of disruptive behaviour from colleagues (1).
The difficulties in challenging and managing such pervasive behaviours in the workplace has been a feature of several major health inquiries of recent years, and was a key theme to emerge from the GMC’s Medical Professionalism Matters workshops (2) held over 18 months in 2015 and 2016.
As part of that work, a GMC survey of more than 1,000 doctors (3) found that 40 per cent of doctors felt that other doctors undermine respect and prevent effective collaboration, and that nearly 60 per cent of doctors would not be confident that they’d be supported by clinical leaders and other managers if they raised a concern.
As a result the GMC committed to collaborating with the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to develop resources give doctors the skills and confidence to deal with unprofessional behaviour.
"All of the evidence shows us that when clinical environments are poorly-led unprofessional behaviour goes unchallenged and patient safety suffers. "
Dame Clare Marx
General Medical Council Chair
At its annual conference on Wednesday 3 April, the GMC’s Chair Dame Clare Marx announced the rollout of a pilot programme of evidence-based training, Professional behaviours and patient safety, to be delivered face to face with doctors across the UK.
Informed by work that workplace culture experts including Vanderbilt University have developed, the training will initially be delivered in at least 14 sites by the GMC’s Regional Liaison Service, which engages with doctors on the frontline to provide guidance and standards advice directly to doctors.
Dame Clare Marx said:
‘All of the evidence shows us that when clinical environments are poorly-led unprofessional behaviour goes unchallenged and patient safety suffers. We are acting on the evidence we have heard from clinicians and their experiences of unprofessional behaviour to give doctors the skills and confidence to lead the changes needed now and in the future to continue to deliver great patient care.
‘The vast majority of doctors act with great compassion and professionalism. If we equip them to challenge poor behaviour in others we will enable them to deliver the care they want to provide. Our aim is to create the right environment for safe professional practice and to support a profession under pressure to deliver good care – we want this to be a practical tool for developing a just culture for the NHS.’
The programme has the backing of patient health safety leaders, including Sir Robert Francis, who chaired the public inquiry into deaths at Mid Staffordshire and is now Chair of Healthwatch England.
Sir Robert Francis said:
‘Bullying and undermining stops everyone talking to each other. It makes people afraid so that they don’t share confidences and concerns, and that’s really dangerous for patients because unsafe practices are allowed to carry on.
‘We all need to role model the behaviours we can be proud of, but there needs to be training in how to have difficult conversations with each other.’
The work continues the GMC’s strategy to improve harm prevention and drive patient care improvements, by working with employers to influence the workplace for doctors, and to help doctors to continue to be good professionals for their patients. It also supports the aims of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, convened in 2018 by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to share good practice and initiatives to tackle bullying and undermining.
As well as tackling unprofessional behaviours, the GMC’s conference – Together: supporting a profession under pressure in delivering good care – will bring together professionals from across healthcare to examine and find solutions to a range of everyday issues, including what doctors can when they have concerns about patient safety, and health and disability in medical education.
More information on the GMC’s conference can be found at www.gmc-uk.org/about/get-involved/events