Doctors should stop bullying their colleagues for their sake and to ensure patient safety is not compromised, according to UK-wide medical defence organisation the MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland).
The organisation has issued a warning to the medical profession of the consequences of doctors who bully their colleagues thus failing to follow principles of good practice and risking harm to patient care.
Last week, the GMC’s annual survey of doctors in training revealed that more than a quarter had experienced undermining behaviour and nearly one in five doctors had witnessed someone being bullied.
There was also a survey in the autumn by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which found a quarter of doctors and surgeons had been bullied or put under excessive pressure to behave in ways that they believed were not in the best interests of patient care.
Following these surveys, the MDDUS has now advised doctors who persistently undermine or criticised colleagues to consider carefully the potential impact of their behaviour.
MDDUS medical adviser Dr Barry Parker said: “Aside from the very obvious emotional consequences for those subjected to the bullying themselves, there may be a wider impact on patient care and patient safety.
“If there is a breakdown in communication or bad atmosphere between colleagues then it is likely that open communication about patient care will be adversely affected, damaging continuity and the team approach to care that is so important.”
Doctors should always strive to maintain good relationships with colleagues based on mutual respect and trust, he added and pointed to GMC guidance contained in Good Medical Practice, which says: “You must work collaboratively with colleagues, respecting their skills and contributions. You must treat colleagues fairly and with respect and must be aware of how your behaviour may influence others within and outside the team.”
The MDDUS also said junior doctors who experienced an environment of bullying were less likely to develop and learn due to a lack of support from senior colleagues.
Dr Parker said: “Inexperienced doctors may be particularly vulnerable in the face of aggression or rudeness and bullying behaviour can severely impact on their learning and development. Trainee doctors rely on senior colleagues for support and should feel comfortable seeking their advice.
“If they face criticism and are undermined, then this may have an adverse effect on their confidence and performance. It may also make it more difficult for them to seek advice from a senior colleague when this is needed in order to treat patients safely.
“Furthermore, an environment where there is a culture of bullying will not encourage reporting and learning from ‘near misses’ or adverse events. This learning is more likely to occur in a culture where individuals feel supported and safe to raise such matters.”