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GPs ‘face more barriers’ to whistleblowing than other doctors

GPs are more worried about whistleblowing than other doctors, with a quarter saying they face barriers to raising a concern, a survey from the Medical Defence Union has found.

The survey of 470 doctors found that only 14% of doctors said they face barriers to blowing the whistle, but for GPs that number rose to 25%.

Despite this, nearly half of GPs had at some point raised a concern (45%), compared with 53% of doctors overall. But, worryingly, over one-third (37%) of GPs who had raised a concern said it was not dealt with appropriately. Instead, they said they were either ignored, told nothing could be done or not taken seriously.

However, half of GP respondents felt doctors were more likely to raise concerns now than they would have been five years ago.

MDU medico-legal adviser Dr Sally Old said: ‘GPs responding to the survey were slightly more likely to report barriers to raising problems than their hospital colleagues. We don’t know for sure why this might be, and of course, our survey was only a snapshot of opinion. However, we know from GPs phoning our advice line that the more intimate nature of general practice, with GPs working in smaller teams than their hospital colleagues, can make it more difficult to raise a patient safety issue.

‘The results may also reflect the possibility that it is easier for hospital doctors to report concerns about a colleague from a different specialty to their own. It might also be to do with the fact that there are clearer lines of reporting within hospitals than within GP practices. Whatever the reasons, it is vital that GPs do take action if they are concerned about patient safety and don’t delay highlighting an issue.’

It comes after Pulse reported on a landmark whistleblowing case victory last month, that saw a GP given the go-ahead to take her health board to an employment tribunal for failing to protect her from reprisals from colleagues after she raised concerns about her partner’s prescribing.