Thursday 22 August 2019

Patients are at risk from 'bullied and exhausted' doctors

Medical Council president Rita Doyle says bullying must end
Medical Council president Rita Doyle says bullying must end
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Patients are being put at risk as the toxic culture of bullying trainee doctors in Irish hospitals is worsening, a new report has warned.

Some 41pc of trainees revealed they are victims of various kinds of bullying or harassment - up from 34pc in 2014.

One in three of the doctors was involved in some adverse event and many of these were being bullied, the report by the Medical Council, which regulates the profession, showed.

Medical colleagues were blamed for most of the bullying, accounting for 58pc of intimidation.

It also laid bare the gruelling working conditions which still force around one-third of trainees to clock up 60 hours' duty a week.

Exhaustion may also be playing a role in patient harm with those who worked the long hours more likely to be involved in an adverse incident.

Almost half of trainees who showed signs of having a mental health issue and would benefit from additional support were involved in a hazardous medical incident.

The trainees also branded nurses and midwives as bullies and said they were responsible for one-third of this workplace behaviour.

"Just under half of trainees in 2017 reported experiencing undermining behaviour from a consultant or GP," said the report.

Male doctors appeared to be more stressed than their female colleagues.

Dr Rita Doyle, a GP who is president of the Medical Council, said that "encouraging trends are emerging, but more needs to be done, especially around the wellbeing of our doctors.

"Bullying will not be tolerated, and we need to reassure our trainees that they can be guaranteed support every step of the way.

"Employers, trainers and policy makers all have an important role to stamp bullying out of the Irish healthcare system," she said.

"It must not continue, and I would encourage anyone who is a victim of bullying to report it via the appropriate channels within their organisation.

"If you believe that this hasn't been given fair consideration you can contact the Medical Council," she added.

The report found that seven in 10 trainee specialists reported a good or better quality of life. Some 76.9pc of respondents said they had good mental wellbeing. And nine out of 10 trainee specialists felt physically safe in the hospital environment.

The number of trainee doctors who expressed a desire to leave Ireland and practise medicine abroad has fallen. Some 21.3pc said they were going to go abroad in 2014 but this has fallen to 14pc, according to the report's 2017 survey.

"In addition, those wishing to remain in Ireland has increased year on year, from 54pc in 2014 to 67.2pc in 2017," the report said.

It still means many Irish- educated doctors are leaving, forcing hospitals to hire medics from abroad.

Two-thirds of those going abroad blamed long hours in Irish hospitals. Better quality of life was also high on their priorities.

Some six in 10 blamed their employers here for a "lack of support".

Bill Prasifka, CEO of the Medical Council, said the "report is not just about supporting doctors, it is also about patient safety".

In response the doctors' union, the Irish Medical Organisation, said it has long campaigned for the HSE to actively engage in a 'Respect' anti-bullying culture and it is critical that further resources are put into this programme.

"Today's trainees should be our future consultant specialists, yet they are struggling within a system that is itself struggling badly to cope with the demands placed upon it," the union said.

"While this report is very valuable, it is not telling us anything new and we must make positive changes to support and encourage our doctors," said IMO president Dr Padraig McGarry.

Irish Independent

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