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Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

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*Attitude of Health Personnel; Delivery of Health Care; Female; Great Britain; Humans; Male; Physicians; Professional Practice; Questionnaires; *Social Values; State Medicine; United States


Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Health Services Research


BACKGROUND: The authors aimed to determine US and UK doctors' professional values and reported behaviours, and the extent to which these vary with the context of care.

METHOD: 1891 US and 1078 UK doctors completed the survey (64.4% and 40.3% response rate respectively). Multivariate logistic regression was used to compare responses to identical questions in the two surveys.

RESULTS: UK doctors were more likely to have developed practice guidelines (82.8% UK vs 49.6% US, p<0.001) and to have taken part in a formal medical error-reduction programme (70.9% UK vs 55.7% US, p<0.001). US doctors were more likely to agree about the need for periodic recertification (completely agree 23.4% UK vs 53.9% US, p<0.001). Nearly a fifth of doctors had direct experience of an impaired or incompetent colleague in the previous 3 years. Where the doctor had not reported the colleague to relevant authorities, reasons included thinking that someone else was taking care of the problem, believing that nothing would happen as a result, or fear of retribution. UK doctors were more likely than US doctors to agree that significant medical errors should always be disclosed to patients. More US doctors reported that they had not disclosed an error to a patient because they were afraid of being sued.

DISCUSSION: The context of care may influence both how professional values are expressed and the extent to which behaviours are in line with stated values. Doctors have an important responsibility to develop their healthcare systems in ways which will support good professional behaviour.


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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See:

DOI of Published Version



BMJ Qual Saf. 2011 Jun;20(6):515-21. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs.2010.048173. Epub 2011 Mar 7. Link to article on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

BMJ quality and safety

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