Large rise in calls as “risk-aware” doctors seek advice

AN increasingly "risk-aware" culture amongst doctors contributed to a large rise in advice calls to MDDUS last year.

The team of medical advisers at MDDUS handled a record total of 9,779 contacts from those seeking help in 2010, up more than seven per cent on the year before.

One reason for the jump in the number of telephone calls, letters and emails to advisers is that doctors appear to be more risk aware and proactive in seeking advice at an early stage about potential problems. The rise may also in part be due to publicity from a number of recent high-profile negligence cases.

Dr Jim Rodger, head of professional services at MDDUS, said: "We are now receiving nearly 190 contacts a week from doctors seeking professional guidance and help. This is in part due to our steady growth in membership throughout the UK, but also because there is a greater awareness amongst medics that they should seek advice at the earliest possible opportunity.

"Doctors are becoming much more aware of risks in part due to the media highlighting significant cases. As a result, they are coming to us for advice at an early stage, before a problem has escalated. Often doctors fear the worst, but in many cases we can reassure them about the consequences of a particular issue and put it into perspective."

Hot topics on the MDDUS advice lines last year included subjects ranging from seeking advice on ongoing claims to handling patient complaints. Confidentiality issues were also prominent, with the number of calls on this subject up substantially on last year.

MDDUS said more doctors sought advice following the publication of the GMC’s new guidance Confidentiality which came fully into effect at the start of 2010.

Calls from medics raising issues about problems with their colleagues also rose during the last year. Dr Rodger said colleague problems can become a big issue when people are under pressure.

He added: “Last year was difficult for many healthcare professionals who have been under increasing pressure to tighten budgets and take part in major Government plans to restructure general practice.”

The analysis of all calls, emails and letters handled by MDDUS medical advisers during 2010 revealed the top ten reasons for making contact as:

1. Patient complaints
2. Confidentiality
3. Claims
4. General Medical Council issues
5. Difficult patients
6. Records
7. Indemnity cover
8. Colleague problem
9. Child protection issues
10. Miscellaneous topics

MDDUS is predicting a further increase in calls this year, as the trend towards risk aversion continues. The organisation has already responded to the rising demand for services by expanding operations into new offices in London, with three new experienced medical advisers now based there.

Dr Rodger adds: "Our members – wherever they are based in the UK – get the very best advice. They find our service very approachable and as a result are comfortable about ringing or emailing us again in the future. MDDUS always provides a prompt and accurate response to all queries."

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