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The apprentice -
Dr John Paul Campion

Dr John Paul Campion, a GP registrar from Mid Leinster, explains why he thinks doctors are reluctant to report colleagues

Who is a professional? The simple answer is that a professional is a person. A person like any other, and like any other they are fallible and prone to making mistakes. As with other people, professionals can get sick and can suffer from addiction and mental health problems. As doctors, we are trained to recognise this in our patients and we do so on a daily basis. However, when it comes to our colleagues, these issues seem to be less easily seen and less easily dealt with.

There has always been reluctance amongst the medical profession to report on our colleagues. Having come through such laborious training to become a doctor, we realise what is at stake for our colleagues if they were found unfit to practise. We identify with the stresses they feel and hope that nothing like that would ever happen to us.

Having come through such laborious training to become a doctor, we realise what is at stake for our colleagues if they were found unfit to practise

Professionalism is a different thing. It is the ability to see the greater good. It is the ability to put aside personal feelings and friendships and do the right thing. Part of our professional responsibility is to ensure that our colleagues are acting correctly.

Part of our professional responsibility is to maintain a high standard across the profession so that patients can feel safe that the person treating them is doing it as well as can be expected. We have a duty to act professionally in all that we do, even if it affects our colleagues.

It’s no surprise that doctors are reluctant to report colleagues. Suspecting that someone has a problem does not make it true. Allegations of improper conduct are taken seriously by the Medical Council and are difficult for the doctor against whom they are made. It makes it worse still when it is a colleague and perhaps friend who makes the allegation. Doctors fear loss of reputation, both among their patients and among their peers. I suspect that until the Medical Council come up with a discreet way of reporting and a less intimidating way of dealing with fitness to practise cases, there may not be much of a change in doctors’ attitudes to reporting colleagues, lest they fall foul of the same someday.
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