Professional Values of U.S. and U.K. Doctors Examined

Nearly one-third of doctors fail to report inadequate colleague, often for fear of retribution

THURSDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- A core of professional values exists among doctors in the United States and the United Kingdom, though significant differences exist in how these values are expressed and prioritized, according to a study published online March 7 in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Martin Roland, B.M., B.Ch., D.M., of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues surveyed 1,891 U.S. and 1,078 U.K. doctors to determine the extent to which their professional values and behaviors vary based on the context of care. The survey included questions related to quality and safety issues, conflicts of interest, and attitudes towards patients.

The researchers found that 18.7 percent of U.K. respondents and 16.5 percent of U.S. respondents had experience with an impaired or incompetent colleague in the preceding three years. Most doctors reported these colleagues, but fear of retribution prevented some doctors from so doing. U.K. doctors were significantly more likely to have developed practice guidelines and to have taken part in an official medical error-reduction program, although U.S. doctors were more likely to recognize the need for periodic recertification. U.K. doctors were more likely to concur that significant medical errors should always be revealed to patients; with more U.S. doctors reporting that they had avoided disclosing a medical error to a patient for fear of being sued.

"Our results strongly suggest that there is a significant core of professional values which is common across the two countries, but that the national context of care may influence both how those values are expressed and the support which doctors give them," the authors write.

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