Massive survey of doctors finds the majority fear for patient safety

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Staffing levels in the NHS are “inadequate” for patients to be receiving quality care, a major new poll of doctors suggest.

A survey of more than 7,800 clinicians from across the UK found that 91% feel staffing levels in the NHS are inadequate to deliver quality patient care.

The poll, conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA), also found that almost four fifths (78%) of medics believe that NHS resources are not good enough which “significantly affects the quality and safety of patient services”.

The poll forms part of the BMA’s latest report which hopes to find solutions to the challenges faced by the NHS.

The majority of doctors (93%) said that pressures on the system have a negative impact on their ability to deliver safe patient care.

The survey found that most doctors believe that patient services have worsened and around three-quarters of doctors said that national targets and directives are prioritised over the quality of care.

Over half of doctors (55%) worry they will be unfairly blamed for errors that are due to system failings and pressures and as a result, half of doctors admitted that they practise “defensively” (49%).

Nine out of 10 doctors said one of the main reasons for making errors is pressure or lack of capacity in the workplace.

The report forms part of the BMA’s latest project which aims to engage British doctors in conversation about their working experiences and come up with solutions to problems.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA council, said: “It is vital that the Government and policy makers heed the views of all doctors who provide care at the coalface; they are in the best place to know the problems the NHS faces on a daily, hourly basis.

“They know the scale of impoverishment in the NHS is staggering.

“They are working in a culture which has improved little since the publication of the Francis and Berwick reports following the tragedies in Mid-Staffordshire five years ago.

“Doctors experience challenges of trying to provide safe patient care when there is poor staffing, gaps in rotas, lack of adequate facilities and where a persistent culture of blame stifles learning and improvement.

“The BMA’s Caring, Supportive, Collaborative project aims to understand and find solutions to these challenges.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We want the NHS to be the safest healthcare system in the world and have introduced major reforms to improve patient safety, including a comprehensive inspection regime so the NHS can rapidly improve care where necessary and ensuring staff are empowered to speak out about mistakes and learn from them.

“There are near-record numbers of staff working in the NHS, including 39,000 more professionally-qualified clinical staff on our wards since 2010.

“We are expanding training places for doctors by 25% and as part of our long-term plan to improve care and patient safety, are investing an extra £56 million a day into the health service by 2023/24.”

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