Up to 20% of doctors say they work with incompetent colleagues
Would-be whistleblowers warned of harm to their careers
Nearly 20% of UK and US doctors have had direct personal experience of an impaired or incompetent colleague, but more than a quarter did not report that doctor, says research published in BMJ Quality & Safety (doi:10.1136/bmjqs.2010.048173).
The survey of nearly 3000 doctors from the UK and the US, most of whom worked in primary care and had been practising for more than 10 years, found that 19% and 17%, respectively, had had direct experience of a doctor who was impaired or incompetent to practise medicine in the past three years.
UK doctors were more likely than their US counterparts to report their colleague to a hospital, professional society, or other body (73% v 65%), with those who didn’t speak up most likely to cite fear of retribution as the reason. Non-reporting US doctors, on the other hand, tended to presume that someone else was taking care of the problem.