15 July 2012
95 per cent of GB adults would expect an individual using the job title ‘surgeon’ to have a medical degree, while only 27 per cent would check a surgeon’s qualifications before having an operation, according to a survey conducted by ICM on behalf of the Patient Group at The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).
This poll reveals the overwhelming level of public trust that surgeons are medically qualified, despite the fact that there are no legal restrictions about who can and can’t be called a surgeon.
The RCS and their Patient Group are today calling on the Government to legally protect the job title ‘surgeon’ so only those who have qualified as a medical doctor and undertaken post-graduate surgical training can use the title. This will avoid confusion and prevent patients thinking they are being treated in the NHS by a ‘surgeon’ when that person does not hold a medical degree and is not a surgical specialist.
Public support for this is clear, with 92 per cent of respondents agreeing that the job title should be restricted by law.
Sue Woodward, Chair of the Patient Group at The Royal College of Surgeons, said:
“Currently patients are being left in the dark and cannot make informed decisions about their treatment. The law must be changed so only those who have undertaken the extensive medical training it takes to become a surgeon can use this title. This will avoid patients misunderstanding the qualification of the person treating them in the future.”
The survey found that 90 per cent of respondents would be concerned if they discovered their surgeon did not hold a medical degree.
In the NHS and private practice, non-medically qualified practitioners who use the title surgeon include podiatric surgeons and aesthetic surgeons. Podiatric surgeons have not completed a medical degree but have instead trained only in the surgical and non-surgical treatment of the foot which leaves them unable to treat the patient as a whole. An aesthetic surgeon may not have a medical degree and may not have undertaken specialist surgical training.
Professor Norman Williams, President of The Royal College of Surgeons, said:
“It is extremely worrying that in the health sector clarity regarding job titles is lacking. Patients undergoing treatment have a right to know the credentials of the person to whom they are entrusting their safety. The law can be very strict in protecting working titles and we believe the same legal cover should be extended to the title surgeon.”
Notes to Editor:
1. The full breakdown of the ICM survey results can be found here
2. ICM interviewed a random sample of 2034 adults aged 18+ in GB online between 22nd-24th June 2012. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For further information please visit www.icmresearch.com
3. The Patient Liaison Group provides a formal route of representation for patients within the Royal College of Surgeons. Made up of twelve non-medical people and led by a non-medical chair with the support of surgeons, the PLG is committed to achieving improvements for patients needing surgery in both the NHS and the private sector. It is also dedicated to nurturing a constructive dialogue between surgeons and patients, so that each may better understand the needs of the other.
4. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Registered charity number: 212808. For more information please visit www.rcseng.ac.uk.
5. For more information, please contact the RCS press office on:
020 7869 6047 / 6052
Out-of hours: 07800 898 568/07966 486 832