Malpractice: Are healthcare workers comfortable reporting dangerous colleagues?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
December 01, 2020, 11:06 AM UTC

YouGov’s Healthcare Professionals survey reveals only one in five healthcare professionals are completely confident their workplace could resolve issues of malpractice

In March 2015, the Morecambe Bay report revealed a “lethal mix” of factors in the maternity services provided by what became the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. The report highlighted a workplace culture that failed to escalate issues, properly investigate problems, and in some cases denied they existed – contributing to avoidable deaths of several mothers and babies.

One significant factor the report mentions is how there was “no systematic attempt to warn those in more senior positions” of dangerous practice occurring a result of fractured working relationships in the Trust in 2004. Decades later the findings form a core part of education for those entering the health service, but do healthcare workers in general feel they can report dangerous and poor practice when they see it?

Many healthcare workers say they aren’t comfortable reporting malpractice

The results show that 33% of healthcare workers across all professional areas and sectors say they would be uncomfortable to some extent reporting dangerous practice, including 6% who are not comfortable at all doing so.

While a total of 60% of staff would feel comfortable reporting dangerous practice, less than a quarter (22%) say they would be “very” comfortable reporting malpractice to a senior colleague. The other 38% of healthcare workers say they are only “somewhat” comfortable doing so.

Are workers confident issues would be resolved if reported?

The Morecombe Bay report also highlights that early intervention and an effective multidisciplinary investigation could have “corrected poor risk assessment and unsafe practice” happening at the Trust. Doing so would have prevented such behaviour from becoming embedded in the Trust’s workplace culture as early as 2004, the report states, given that it took a further four years for alarm bells to be raised in 2008 following several more deaths.

Despite the report’s warnings that poor and defensive internal investigations worsened problems at the Trust, only 19% of healthcare workers are “very” confident that issues they raise of poor or dangerous practice in their own workplaces would be properly handled and resolved.

More than two fifths (44%) are somewhat confident that issues they raise would be properly addressed, while a total of three in ten (30%) have little to no confidence in their workplace to resolve issues of dangerous practice.

The issue of resolving poor practice highlights a significant split between the NHS and private healthcare; although only 29% of those in the private sector say they are “very” confident their workplace would resolve such issues properly, this is almost twice the level it is among NHS staff (16%).

Learn more about YouGov Custom Research here

See full results here