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Supporting our Doctors

Alison WrightAlison Wright
RCOG Vice President, UK & Global Membership
Chair, Supporting our Doctors Task Group

As the professional body for the O&G profession, there is an important role for the College to play in better supporting doctors, and their employers, manage workplace challenges.

The RCOG’s Supporting our Doctors Task Group was established in 2017 and aims to:

  1. Advocate for improved workplace cultures including a nationally recognised and consistent approach to resolving disputes
  2. Understand the workplace issues faced by doctors, including contributory factors, and seek to mitigate them
  3. Set a strategy and coordinated approach for supporting doctors (and their employers) with their training and work-place based conduct and practice challenges
  4. Collaborate with likeminded organisations that provide services to doctors in difficulty to raise awareness of and sign post to support resources available outside the RCOG
  5. Formalise links and establish respective roles with regulatory, indemnity and other relevant national bodies
  6. Develop and promote tools, resources and services to effectively manage work-place challenges, including a peer to peer support programme

Below is an update on the group’s work and achievements to date.

Peer to Peer Support Service

There is now an enquiry form on the website for members who are experiencing difficulties in the work place and would like to speak to someone about the options available to them. A panel of members from the Supporting our Doctors Task Group, who have previous experience of supporting doctors, review the enquiries and provide one to one pastoral support. All enquiries are treated as strictly private and confidential.

Expert Opinion Service

The task group are piloting a service that provides doctors and their employers with an expert opinion on how best to manage a complaint or conduct issues and the options available to them. The aim is to facilitate the resolution of complaints at a local level, minimise the number of suspensions and referrals to GMC and ultimately keep more doctors in work, where appropriate.

Find out more about support services here

Good complaint handling and local resolution

The Supporting our Doctors Task Group is advocating for a more consistent, open and progressive approach to complaints handling. The group has identified five core principles it believes should underpin a good complaint handling process:

  • Inclusion: Exclusion should be a last resort having demonstrated that no other realistic and acceptable work can be offered, e.g. limiting an area of practice or teaching
  • Peer support: Doctors should be encouraged to support and speak to colleagues experiencing difficulties
  • Timeliness: Complaint handling and investigations must be completed in a timely manner
  • Competency: Training for everyone handling and investigating complaints
  • Equality: A nationally recognised and applied framework for complaint handling, to ensure parity and consistency across the profession

To support the ‘Competency’ principle the task group is aiming to run an event in 2019 on how best to handle complaints and resolve disputes locally. The event will be aimed at managers and anyone who could be potentially involved in complaints handling processes.

Burnout

As part of the RCOG’s 2017/18 workforce survey we included questions to assess the impact that workforce challenges are having on doctors’ wellbeing and ability to deliver safe services. The intention is to secure evidence that supports our workforce advocacy and lobbying activities supporting the need to improve workplace conditions. The results are being analysed and will be published early in 2019.

Bullying and undermining

Undermining and bullying behaviour long been recognised as a problem in O&G, with trainees reporting more undermining behaviour than any other medical specialty23 and 64% of consultants saying they have experienced or witnessed consultants being bullied24. The RCOG has developed a network of Workplace Behaviour Champions to support trainees and SAS/Trust doctors respond to bullying and undermining behaviour, and our Peer to Peer Support Service (see above) is available to help consultants who experience similar issues. The RCOG is also collaborating with other Colleges and healthcare bodies, as well as government organisations and charities, to understand and address the systemic issues having an adverse effect on workplace cultures and good team working. This also includes sourcing and promoting examples of good practice.

On 24 September 2018 the RCOG jointly hosted a meeting in Edinburgh with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) to provide clinicians and managers with anti-bullying strategies. The day also included workshops to explore practical aspects of anti-bullying strategies in the workplace. This is the second anti-bullying and undermining event run by the RCOG and RCSEd with the first one taking place in February 2018. The day was extremely well received and will be followed by a further event at the RCOG on 4 April 2019.



  1. GMC National Training Survey ↩︎
  2. Shabazz T, Parry-Smith W, Oates S, et al. Consultants as victims of bullying and undermining: a survey of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists consultant experiences. BMJ Open 2016 ↩︎