Dr Sally Old

"Everyone in the NHS should be able to come to work every day knowing they will be treated with respect, supported to do their work and expand their skills, and be appreciated for what they do."

This is the view of Professor Don Berwick in his recent report into patient safety as he called on patients and carers, senior managers, regulators and members of staff to work together to create a culture of continual improvement within the NHS, a prerequisite for safe and high quality care.

The theme of this issue of wardround is teamwork and respect for patients and colleagues. This is now central to medical professionalism and a recurring theme in the latest issue of Good Medical Practice (2013). Doctors, the GMC says, must show respect for patients' dignity, confidentiality, autonomy and personal beliefs and they must build respectful relationships with colleagues, treating them fairly and without discrimination.

Respect is also essential to the safe and effective provision of care in a hospital setting. For example, for multidisciplinary teams to provide a co-ordinated service, each person has to understand their own responsibilities and recognise the contribution that other team members make to the patient's care. Professional attitudes and behaviour towards colleagues as well as patients is more likely to earn the patient's trust in your clinical opinions and advice.

Of course, every doctor can still find themselves in an uncomfortable situation where the views of a patient or their family seem unreasonable or their personal beliefs clash with the doctor's own deeply-held values. But this should not prevent you from fulfilling your professional obligation to treat them with consideration, even if you need to transfer the patient's care to a colleague. After all, the real meaning of respect is treating others as you would like to be treated yourself.

If you need specific medico-legal advice from the MDU, call our 24-hour helpline on 0800 716 646.

Dr Sally Old
Medical editor

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