Doctors in Scotland ‘under pressure and fearful of making errors’

A survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) has highlighted the stark reality of how doctors in Scotland feel about their roles

The BMA conducted a survey of 999 of its Scottish members and found that the sector is feeling ‘under pressure and fearful of making errors’, as well as being concerned that budgets are given a higher priority than patient care.

The results of the survey also show that 91% of BMA members in Scotland are working more than their allotted hours. On top of that, four in 10 claim bullying are an issue in the workplace, and nearly half don’t feel able to raise concerns about patient care for fear of repercussion.

BMA Scottish council chair, Dr Lewis Morrison, said the survey results are worrying and that urgent action is needed.

“Our survey provides clear and worrying evidence that doctors in Scotland believe national targets and finances are prioritised above the quality of patient care,” he said.

“This would indicate that the way our NHS is run is skewing priorities and not always putting the patient first. That simply cannot be right – everything our health services does should be about delivering the best care possible, and not simply meeting financial or waiting times targets, which often tell us little about the actual quality of care.”

Due to the fears respondents are harbouring, more than four in 10 respondents practice medicine defensively, while 74% are wary of recording reflective practice for fear it could be used against them.

Morrison said the survey findings reinforced deep concerns repeatedly expressed by BMA members. He continued:

“It is clear from the results that there are simply not enough doctors to deliver the quality care we all strive to provide. Doctors are fearful of making mistakes and then being blamed for them – despite being overworked and in a system under too much pressure.

“It is also clear from this survey that bullying and harassment of doctors continues to be far too prevalent. This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable, and we need urgent steps to promote a more positive workplace across the NHS in Scotland – something the BMA is committed to working towards.

Morrison added that the survey should help reverse the deterioration in working conditions for doctors in Scotland.

“I truly believe that if they are used constructively, the results will be a useful tool not just for us, but for policy makers, employers and managers at all levels.

“These are the challenges – making doctors truly feel valued again, ensuring Scotland better attracts and retains doctors, delivering real improvements in doctors working lives, putting services on a long-term sustainable footing and closing the gap between resources and demand.”

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