28 November 2019

Assistant Registrar, Dr Esther Youd, sets out the College’s response to the review into the wellbeing of doctors by the General Medical Council.

The Royal College of Pathologists welcomes the publication by the GMC of Caring for Doctors, Caring for Patients, following the review into wellbeing of doctors by Professor Michael West and Dame Denise Coia.

Our medical and scientific workforce is under immense strain. This then undoubtedly affects the health and wellbeing of doctors who are already providing care in challenging circumstances and under intense pressure. This is especially so in the context of workforce shortages which are documented across many pathology specialties. Our workforce (consultants, trainees and students) is crucial to delivering and leading high quality, safe and effective patient care yet it is often expected to do so without adequate resource and in inadequate and often unsafe environments, as this report highlights.

The report highlights a convincing evidence base for the beneficial effects of compassion on patient outcomes and the wellbeing of health and care professionals. Neglect, incivility, bullying and harassment of staff have quite opposite effects.

We have worked with our trainee advisory committee members on campaigns to highlight the damaging effects of bullying and harassment. We advocate that all our members choose compassionate leadership at all stages of their careers as we recognise the beneficial effects for our workforce and for patient safety and care.

Supporting doctors

This report highlights workload as a key factor in doctors being able to feel competent to provide care. We produce guidance for our members which includes examples of workload which does not add value to patient care. We recommend this guidance to employers to help ensure that the focus of doctors’ work is on aspects which are of benefit to patients.

We have supported the training and development of our biomedical scientist workforce to enable them to undertake independent reporting in specifically focused areas of pathology, thus addressing both both insufficient numbers of histopathologists and reducing their overall workload. Employers could make use of these initiatives to improve doctors’ workload.

We support those responsible for providing training and we welcome the call to ensure that those providing training are themselves well-trained and demonstrate compassionate leadership. This is vital to ensure high quality training and to benefit our trainees and patients.

As an organisation which does not itself provide frontline medical services but with members who do so, we commit to introducing a key performance indicator for the RCPath for compassionate leadership, as called for in this report. The Board will monitor this to ensure we, as an organisation, can demonstrate leadership that is compassionate and inclusive.

Find out more

The Caring for doctors, Caring for patients report includes eight recommendations to help deliver safe, supportive and inclusive environments, and compassionate cultures across the UK.