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Perceptions of good medical practice in the NHS: a survey of senior health professionals.
  1. A Hutchinson,
  2. M Williams,
  3. K Meadows,
  4. R S Barbour,
  5. R Jones
  1. School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, UK. allen.hutchinson@sheffield.ac.uk

    Abstract

    OBJECTIVES: To categorize senior health professionals' experience with poor medical practice in hospitals and in general practice, to describe perceptions which senior NHS staff have of good medical practice, and to describe how problems of poor medical practice are currently managed. DESIGN: A postal questionnaire survey. The questionnaire sought perceptions of good medical practice, asked participants to characterise deviations from good practice, and to describe experience with managing poor performance at the time of the introduction of the General Medical Council (GMC) performance procedures. SETTING: A range of NHS settings in the UK: hospital trusts, health authorities/boards, local medical committees, community health councils. SUBJECTS: Senior health professionals involved in the management of medical professional performance. MAIN MEASURES: Perceptions of what constitutes good medical practice. RESULTS: Most respondents considered that persistent problems related to clinical practice (diagnosis, management, and outcome and prescribing) would require local management and, possibly, referral to the GMC performance procedures. Informal mechanisms, including informal discussion, education, training, and work shifting, were the most usual means of handling a doctor whose performance was poor. Many took a less serious view of deficiencies in performance on manner and attitude and communication, although consultation skills rather than technical skills comprised the greatest number of complaints about doctors. CONCLUSIONS: Senior NHS professionals seem reluctant to consider persistently poor consultation skills in the same critical light as they do persistently poor technical practice. These attitudes may need to change with the implementation of clinical governance and updated guidance from the GMC on what constitutes good medical practice.

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