Blog: As hospital doctors we need to lead by example

It is said that crises bring out the best and the worst in people and I suspect that's true for organisations as well. After many years of trying to create a no blame culture in the NHS it is therefore disappointing to see that Covid-19 has made blame rear its head again.

There are numerous reports of employers blaming clinical staff for an increase in infections of the virus. The most public one of these has probably been that of the Chief Executive of Hillingdon Hospitals Trust, who wrote an email to staff blaming them for the rise in Covid infections by not wearing masks and not adhering to social distancing. Shortly after this becoming public, pictures of her emerged showing how she herself had not been wearing a mask in the hospital. 

After this, some NHS staff could be heard arguing that if the management doesn’t follow the guidelines, why should they. This is of course not a professional response nor is it one that will help our profession or our patients.

As hospital doctors we should be leading by example and adhere to the policy of wearing a mask as well as practicing social distancing in the workplace as best as we can. Of course doctors are as diverse as the rest of society and some may disagree with the official rules.

However, at a time like this, it is our professional duty not to undermine official advice and to hold to account those ignoring it, including senior management. Remember, the purpose of the blame game, as in this most recent example, is not to protect staff and patients but to distract from organisational failings.

As hospital doctors, together with the help of all our clinical colleagues, we are best placed to make hospitals a safer place to work and to be treated in.

Dr Bernhard Heidemann is an executive committee member of the HCSA and a consultant anaesthetist based in Scotland.