Patient care and confidentiality are being affected because hospital doctors do not have the resources they need, according to a research published by the BMA.
Half of junior doctors (54%) and a quarter of consultants (25%) who responded to a UK-wide BMA survey said the quantity of their office space had declined over the last year. Over half (56%) did not believe they had adequate resources to support their work.
Over a third (36%) said that changes in either the quantity or quality of their office space had impacted on their ability to provide patient care, and around half (53%) said it had impacted on their working practices generally. Junior doctors were most likely to report problems.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, Chairman of the BMA's Consultants Committee, says:
"This is about quality of care and patient confidentiality. The plush, spacious, consultant's office is a figment of television imagination. Many consultants, junior doctors, and staff and associate specialist grade doctors have no office space at all. Those that do are struggling to cope in tiny spaces shared with colleagues.
"Doctors handle sensitive information and need space for private conversations with their patients and other staff. If they have to "hot-desk", the confidentiality of their patients is put at risk. Consultants also need office space for the aspects of their work that involve innovation and service improvement.
"There is little doubt that working practices are being adversely affected, and that this can ultimately be detrimental to patient care."
Reasons cited for the problem included reduced trust budgets and increased demands from NHS managers for office space. Some respondents also reported that more clinical staff had been appointed without an associated expansion in office space.
The BMA today publishes guidance for consultants on good practice. It states that they need suitable office space to ensure patient confidentiality and maximise their efficiency.