Stop scapegoating in the NHS by allowing doctors to freely reflect on mistakes

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Health Care Professionals (HCP) are under increasing pressures everyday. Staff shortages, more patients and fewer resources.Mistakes in medicine unfortunately, are inevitable when dealing with human factors.

It is clear that many of the public are knowledgeable and truly understand that HCPs work solely to improve patient lives and that  well-being is always number one priority for doctors working. However, there is also the unfortunate portrayal  in media and in the general populous that counteracts this, and often witch hunts specific doctors often under the notion that HCP's should never make any mistakes. In turn this public pressure leads to pressure on NHS trusts and the GMC to determine a culprit and relieve the pressure by scapegoating one individual when a series of mistakes took place.

For HCPs to be always "looking over their shoulder" at the possibility of being scapegoated or having the blame pointed at them reduces HCP confidence in their own ability, reduces the discussion of mistakes for fear of repercussions and most significantly harms patient safety- lessons are no longer learnt in order to improve patient care but are made to punish.

The reality remains that HCPs are only humans and patients are not machines. Even with the long 10+ years of training to reach consultant jobs in medicine, doctors can make mistakes which regrettably lead to patient harm and in some cases deaths and not because of a lack of care in the majority of situations.  As a result, It is therefore important that in these situations, reflection is conducted without blame and scapegoating in order to correct that failure in the system and ensure patients benefit from the mistakes that were made. 

As the Dr Bawa-Garba case highlights, a doctor that although making multiple mistakes was under extreme pressure and was acting in the patients benefit was sanctioned and prosecuted for SYSTEM Failures. To blame one healthcare professional who otherwise had an unblemished career for system failures is farcical and sets a dangerous precedent for the future of medicine.

The public confidence in doctors and healthcare professionals arises from their ability to progress patient care, and there is no greater obstruction to this than to destroy careers without the chance of improving from mistakes.

How are healthcare professionals expected to improve if they are unable to discuss their mistake. The blame culture has to end in the NHS and the department of health and parliament need to discuss the options to improve confidence within the medical field, if this is not discussed then we are heading for a system that punishes those that recognise their mistakes and wish to improve, whilst in contrast rewards those HCP that hide their mistakes and project false images of perfection in their own practice.



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