Nine in 10 doctors fear NHS staff crisis could force them into mistakes

Nine in 10 doctors fear a 'toxic combination' of rising workload and understaffing will force them into making mistakes, while 'endemic' bullying in the NHS leaves them exposed to blame, a BMA report warns.

NHS concerns (Photo: Photofusion/Getty Images)
NHS concerns (Photo: Photofusion/Getty Images)

Two thirds of doctors said bullying was a problem in their place of work because people were working under significant pressure, according to the report, which found that bullying and harassment are 'endemic' in parts of the profession.

A year-long BMA study into the working environment of NHS professionals and the services they provide found doctors operating in GP practices and hospitals were exposed to bullying and often blamed for mistakes, leading to ‘low morale’ among the workforce.

The ‘Caring, Supportive Collaborative: Doctors' vision for change in the NHS’ research also found NHS organisations were ‘hugely understaffed’, meaning delivery of patient care was ‘often unsafe’.

Extra funding

The report calls for a significant rise in NHS funding to put the health service on a sustainable long-term funding plan, demanding an extra 4.1% per year, equating to an extra £9.5bn by 2023/24.

A BMA manifesto published alongside the report and delivered to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock and other MPs sets out priorities for the government to deliver.

Alongside extra funding, it asks for legislation to ensure accountability for safe staffing levels and to guarantee that individual clinicians will not be blamed when the system places them under ‘unmanageable pressure’.

The manifesto requests ‘a comprehensive IT programme’, including access to high-speed broadband and full digitisation of all patient records and a review of the CQC to create a ‘truly proportionate regulatory system’.

Toxic combination

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the current NHS environment was neither beneficial for medical professionals or patients: ‘Nine in 10 doctors tell us that staffing levels are inadequate and that they work in environments where they fear the toxic combination of ever-increasing demand for services and lack of staff capacity will lead to mistakes.

‘They tell us there is a persistent culture of fear across the NHS, where blame stifles learning, contributing to the vicious cycle of low morale so staff leave and then there’s a problem of recruitment.

‘This unsafe, underfunded environment is as damaging for patients as it is for doctors. Radical change is clearly needed.’

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'We are supporting the hardworking NHS workforce with funding for 25% more training places for doctors, nurses and midwives, and with a significant pay rise for over 1m staff.

'We’re backing GPs with an extra £4.5bn a year for primary and community care by 2023/24 and last year a record 3,473 doctors were recruited into GP training, on top of plans to recruit up to 20,000 more staff in GP practices.'

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