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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
One in four junior doctors bullied
Consultants supervise junior doctors
Almost a quarter of all junior doctors working in the NHS have been bullied by bosses, a survey reveals.

Researchers at the University of London also found that consultants are often sexist, unfair and unreasonable when it comes to dealing with trainee doctors.

One in 14 juniors suggested their supervising consultant was incompetent, insensitive or negligent towards patients.


[The] consultant walked off ward round and didn't speak to me for over a week

Junior doctor
The researchers warned that such behaviour could cause trainees to leave their job or leave medicine altogether.

Overall, 22% of those who responded to the survey said their consultant behaved badly.

Many said their consultant was an idiot, rude, arrogant, selfish, senile and pompous.

In some cases, doctors said their consultant had behaved unethically and pressured them into colluding in wrongdoing.

One trainee told the researchers how they were encouraged to help kill a patient.

"While caring for a terminal patient their condition deteriorated and I phoned up the consultant at home who told me to administer a fatal dose of diamorphine.

"I said I didn't feel this was appropriate as the patient needed to speak to relatives, etc, and he eventually agreed."


If junior doctors do feel they are being got at or bullied or asked to do unethical things they should talk to somebody about it

Dr Trevor Pickersgill, BMA
Another doctor recalled how they had been ordered to carry out a HIV test on a patient who was refusing consent.

The junior told researchers: "[The] consultant got very angry and demanded that we take off some blood and 'just do it'.

"[The] consultant walked off ward round and didn't speak to me for over a week."

Just 59% said they had a good relationship with the doctor supervising them.

Training

The researchers, led by Dr Shelley Heard of the University of London, suggested the consultants should be required to undergo training to improve their management skills.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said: "The values, attitudes and behaviours that should characterise modern medical professionalism need to be the topic of lifelong learning for all grades of staff."

The British Medical Association launched a campaign earlier this year to stamp out unfair treatment of junior doctors.

Dr Trevor Pickersgill, chairman of the BMA's junior doctors committee, described the findings as worrying and urged juniors to speak out.

"If junior doctors do feel they are being got at or bullied or asked to do unethical things they should talk to somebody about it.

"Every trust in the land has policies on these issues and trusts tend to treat this type of thing very seriously. They could also approach the BMA or their defence body," he told BBC News Online.

See also:

11 Apr 02 | Health
07 Apr 01 | Health
28 Jul 02 | England
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