A General Medical Council survey suggests that half of doctors in hospital and general practice are being concerned about a colleague's abilities.
A first poll of 411 doctors found that 93% of those with worries had taken some form of action, such as talking to a senior colleague or employer. But 10% of GPs and 4% of hospital doctors had taken no action. It was also found that on e in five doctors expressed concerns and even made reference to possible alcohol abuse.
The GMC survey also found that doctors raised concerns about communication skills, team-working skills and general ability and clinical knowledge. Almost a quarter of the GPs expressed their concerns on a belief that their colleagues were severely overworked and suffering from stress.
The surveyors felt that if the main reason for some doctors not raising concerns were due to the impact it would have on their own career and relationships with peers. Many others believed a senior colleague should resolve the situation, or that they did not know who to report their concerns to.
A second poll of over 900 members of the public found they had more faith in the regulatory system than doctors. Almost three quarters of members of the public said they had confidence in the way doctors were regulated, compared to 50% of GPs and 52% of hospital doctors. Less than 10% of members of the public felt that they were not at all confident with the GMC, and many mentioned family experience as a factor in their views. This was significantly different from a survey conducted in 2003 where the GMC was described as a bureaucratic doctors club.
When asked about what made a good doctor, nine out of 10 members of the public said giving good advice and treatment, closely followed by good communication skills. Many doctors mostly thought that recently trained doctors had good communication and interpersonal skills.
Sir Graeme Catto, President of the GMC, said: they are happy with the public's expression of confidence in regulation and by the support from doctors of the principle of professionally led regulation. He said that it was an important duty of doctors to raise concerns, when they have them even if it is about a colleague and that they were glad that the vast majorities who see a problem do something about it.
He said that their primary concern was to ensure that those actions are followed through in the interests of patients. This would mean he explained was for the GMC to work closely with employers so as to ensure that the concerns expressed are clarified.
Alastair Henderson, deputy director of NHS Employers said that the GMC's survey paints an encouraging picture of the willingness of doctors to pursue concerns about the ability of their colleagues. He said that it now highlights the need for employers, the GMC and the professions to work together to ensure there are clear and well understood processes for handling concerns about doctors.