Majority of independent practitioners supported NHS colleagues during pandemic, survey reveals

Over half (58%) of consultants working in independent practice have provided additional NHS services to support colleagues and patients during the pandemic, according to a new survey published today.

The survey of 227 independent practitioners by leading medical defence organisation, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) and Independent Practitioner Today journal also revealed that 58% of respondents reported that private practice services had decreased during the pandemic, with just 28% saying they had increased.

While 95% of doctors said patients had been understanding about the changes they had to make, some 21% reported they had been abused by patients and 28% had been involved in a complaint. Doctors said their main medico-legal concerns centred around increased waiting times for treatments, use of remote consultations and communication difficulties.

Additionally, nearly three quarters of consultants (72%) said they would feel reassured if the government took action to shield healthcare staff from litigation against the NHS caused by the pandemic.

Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU head of advisory services, said:

"Independent practitioners are usually consultants with many years of experience in their specialist areas. According to our survey, the majority have used their specialist knowledge to help colleagues dealing with the enormous pressures caused by the pandemic with over a third of respondents saying they had provided additional NHS services for the duration of the pandemic, while 23% provided their support during the height of the crisis. With over 5 million people on NHS waiting lists this support is vital.

"It is worrying that half of respondents feel stressed or anxious on a weekly basis and a third are going to work when they do not feel fit to do so. Unfortunately, some respondents told us that they decided to stop private practice or worry they are going to be held responsible for issues they have no control over.

"Consequently, it's important for independent practitioners to be provided with the necessary support when dealing with the additional pressures. The MDU has a peer support network for its members who are facing medico-legal challenges, such as complaints, inquests, GMC investigations and claims. This enables them to speak with a fellow member who has 'been in their shoes' and who can offer both practical and emotional support and guidance."

This page was correct at publication on 10/08/2021. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.