Consensus Statement On The Role Of The Doctor Released

A consensus statement on the role of the doctor in New Zealand, published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal, highlights the key skills and personal attributes required by doctors to ensure patient care is not compromised in a health sector undergoing significant change.

NZMA Chair Dr Paul Ockelford says that there have been huge changes in health care delivery in the last 20 or so years and it is essential that the doctor’s role reflects these changes.

“We need to ensure that patients continue to receive the best possible care and treatment. There are ongoing challenges in meeting the increasing healthcare needs of our society, particularly as our population ages and we are faced with more chronic illnesses. Solutions are being sought to respond to this growing demand such as the creation of new healthcare roles, delegating tasks that were traditionally only undertaken by doctors, and a greater emphasis on health care teams.”

“Doctors acknowledge and value healthcare delivery by a health team, including the contribution of nurses and allied health professionals. There are major benefits for patients of this integrated approach. However the statement emphasises that doctors must take ultimate responsibility for medical decisions and diagnoses in situations of complexity.”

“While doctors must take a leadership role within the healthcare team, respecting the skills of other practitioners within the team is crucial.”

The consensus statement also recognises that patients now take a more active role in decision-making regarding their health care, partly as a result of having greater access to health information, especially through the internet.

“Increasingly the doctor-patient relationship is based on partnership.”

Dr Ockelford says that a core part of the statement is also the doctor’s responsibility to work as leaders towards improving public health.

“Doctors are not only advocates for individual patients and patient groups, but must also work towards improving public health, especially in light of the stark health inequities we currently face in New Zealand where some groups in our society suffer disproportionately from illnesses in relation to their socioeconomic status.”

“In a year that the NZMA celebrates its 125 year anniversary as the pan professional organisation that advocates for doctors and their patients, it is timely to reflect on the medical profession’s achievements and to anticipate the doctor’s emerging future role.”

The consensus statement was developed following a seminar which was hosted by the NZMA and brought together representatives of the medical colleges, district health boards, public health organisations, nurses, medical schools and health workforce planners.

Dr Ockelford says that all signatories to the statement have a shared goal to improve the health of our community. "We would like to see the consensus statement as the foundation for further discussion among medical schools, the wider health sector, government and other groups about how we can best deliver optimal healthcare to New Zealanders.”