Unprofessional behaviour - An unacceptable risk to patient safety

October 8, 2015

The vast majority of doctors behave to the highest professional standards, but a small number do not. Those who display unprofessional behaviour tend to do so recurrently and often go unchallenged, except in the most extreme or serious cases.

In North America such behaviour has recently received increased attention from regulators following a clear demonstration of a link with medical errors. There are also links with increased complaints and litigation.  Various programs have been developed to deal with this. 

Disruptive behaviour has also been demonstrated by nurses and managers but it is the behaviour of doctors which has been most closely linked with patient harm. Although there are likely to be some differences between specialties and between healthcare systems what evidence exists seems to indicate similar patterns. 

Through this session, participants will: 

1.Understand the spectrum of behaviours which can be regarded as unprofessional.

2.Understand how this can contribute to errors and safety incidents and foster an unsafe environment.

3.Understand some other effects of this behaviour.

4.Become familiar with some approaches for dealing with this.

Webinar recording


Dr. Kevin Stewart, MB, MPH, FRCP, FRCPI is Clinical Director of the Clinical Effectiveness & Evaluation Unit at the Royal College of Physicians, where he leads the College’s national clinical audit work, including the national audit of End of Life care.

His clinical background is in General and Geriatric Medicine which he still practices part time in Winchester. He was Medical Director of Winchester & Eastleigh NHS Trust until 2009 then a Health Foundation Quality Improvement Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA in 2009/10. He became Medical Director of the team which devised the NHS Safety Thermometer at the Department of Health before taking up his current post in 2011.

He has a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard.