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Michelle Woolls: Worrying Research Soon to be Published in the Journal of Medical Ethics

I've just read about some worrying research which is soon to be published in the Journal of Medical Ethics
Apparently, of over 1000 medical students surveyed, most felt they lack the skills and legal knowledge required to challenge poor clinical practice and promote better patient care. Many of the students admitted to feeling anxious about using legal rules and about challenging observed deficiencies in clinical practice. They also felt they lacked adequate knowledge of the NHS complaints procedure.
Firms like us, who investigate clinical negligence claims on behalf of the victims of medical accidents, often get criticised in the press for running up huge legal bills which the NHS have to pay. In response to this, I’d like to first of all say that these costs are often unavoidable, with such claims necessitating the use of several medical experts to investigate all aspects of the claim. Secondly, many of these costs could be avoided at the outset if the NHS adopted a more open approach to investigating both claims and complaints. Often, if a complaint is properly dealt with, the person is less likely to go on to bring a claim.
As this recent research highlights, the doctors of the future are clearly not being adequately trained in the areas of challenging poor clinical practice and handling complaints. I have experience of teaching medical students and I can say that I have never once been asked to train them on the NHS complaints procedure. The training I was requested to give consisted of 3 one-hour sessions covering key areas of medical negligence law. Hardly enough to last a career which could span decades.
Perhaps if the NHS improved its training to both junior and senior doctors, it could in turn improve patient care, avoiding many claims and saving money in the process.