Don't let emotional pressure cloud your judgement at Christmas


For immediate release: Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Doctors should resist pressure to discharge patients in time for Christmas if they do not meet necessary clinical criteria.

UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS are reminding junior and middle grade doctors not to let emotional pressure cloud their judgement when discharging patients this Christmas.

Patients understandably want to be in the comfort if their own homes with family and friends at Christmas time. When compared with the festivities at home, a hospital can be an unattractive place to be.

This can lead to great deal of pressure being applied by patients and their relatives for either early discharge or a period of home leave. However, Dr John Holden, Joint Head of Medical Division at MDDUS, reminds doctors to act with caution when determining which patients should be discharged.

“Junior and middle grade doctors may be tempted to succumb to the patient’s wishes at Christmas time,” says Dr Holden. “They may feel a degree of pressure from a patient or a patient’s family. It is one thing getting in the Christmas spirit, but patient safety is paramount at all times and you should only discharge patients who meet the usual criteria for being fit to go home.

“A reduction in standards to accommodate the patient’s wishes is not in their best interests. Normal clinical judgement and acumen must be applied.”

MDDUS has assisted members with number of cases involving the discharging of patients. These range from patients who have had to be readmitted to hospital to more serious incidents where patients have died shortly after discharge.

“Premature discharge of patients may lead to criticism of a doctor’s actions. Not only can this lead to a complaint under the NHS complaints process but also a claim in clinical negligence, a complaint to the GMC and disciplinary action by the employing hospital trust,” adds Dr Holden.

“If a doctor allows emotional pressure cloud good judgement and practice, the risks of adverse occurrences become greater. Christmas is a particular focus of this type of pressure, especially when followed closely by the New Year holiday.

“By exercising care, you can reduce the risks of harm for the patient and yourself. Where there is any doubt, doctors are advised to discuss the case with an experienced senior colleague.”


For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email

Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK. For further information on MDDUS go to

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