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Junior doctors’ views on reporting concerns about patient safety: a qualitative study
  1. Patricia Hooper1,
  2. David Kocman2,
  3. Sue Carr1,
  4. Carolyn Tarrant2
  1. 1University Hospitals Leicester, Leicester, UK
  2. 2SAPPHIRE, Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carolyn Tarrant, Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, 22–28 Princess Road West, Leicester LE1 6TP, UK; ccp3{at}


Background Enabling healthcare staff to report concerns is critical for improving patient safety. Junior doctors are one of the groups least likely to engage in incident reporting. This matters both for the present and for the future, as many will eventually be in leadership positions. Little is known about junior doctors’ attitudes towards formally reporting concerns.

Aims To explore the attitudes and barriers to junior doctors formally reporting concerns about patient safety to the organisations in which they are training.

Methods A qualitative study comprising three focus groups with 10 junior doctors at an Acute Teaching Hospital Trust in the Midlands, UK, conducted in 2013. Focus group discussions were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic approach, facilitated by NVivo 10.

Results Participants were supportive of the idea of playing a role in helping healthcare organisations become more aware of risks to patient safety, but identified that existing incident reporting systems could frustrate efforts to report concerns. They described barriers to reporting, including a lack of role modelling and senior leadership, a culture within medicine that was not conducive to reporting concerns, and a lack of feedback providing evidence that formal reporting was worthwhile. They reported a tendency to rely on informal ways of dealing with concerns as an alternative to engaging with formal reporting systems.

Conclusions If healthcare organisations are to be able to gather and learn from intelligence about risks to patient safety from junior doctors, this will require attention to the features of reporting systems, as well as the implications of hierarchies and the wider cultural context in which junior doctors work.


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