Patient safety and putting matters right 


Dr Li, a senior consultant responsible for 2 acute medical ward, manages a team which includes foundation and speciality doctors in training.

Dr Young, a speciality trainee in his third year, often arrives late for work and in one case misses his shift with no prior notice. This presents difficulties for the team, as they  do not have any excess number of staff beyond the minimum required for effective patient safety. 


Dr Li and her team are on-call, including Dr Young, but he does not turn up. Dr Li is concerned that her team will struggle with the workload: there are three doctors for 2 busy acute medical wards. 

Given the risks to patient care, she re-prioritises clinical tasks and delegates Dr Young's responsibilities across the team to make the best of the current situation.

What the doctor did 

Dr Li makes an appointment to speak to human resources later that afternoon to discuss her concerns about Dr Young. The HR manager advises her to meet with Dr Young as a matter of urgency to identify any underlying issues.

The next day Dr Li calls Dr Young into her office. He is apologetic and admits to being greatly distressed following a recent family bereavement. Dr Young acknowledges the impact of his actions and agrees to seek bereavement counselling. 

Dr Li is sympathetic to his situation. In consultation with HR, she grants him special leave, and emphasises the importance of informing the relevant staff as early as possible in case of any future absences. She also arranges an appointment with Occupational Health and appropriate clinical cover for Dr Young during his absence.