How do doctors in the Netherlands perceive the impact of disciplinary procedures and disclosure of disciplinary measures on their professional practice, health and career opportunities? A questionnaire among medical doctors who received a disciplinary measure

B.S. Laarmanen*, R.J.R. Bouwman, A.J.E. de Veer, M. Hendriks, R.D. Friele

*Corresponding author for this work

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Disciplinary procedures can have serious consequences for the health, personal life and professional functioning of doctors. Until recently, specific disciplinary measures (reprimands) were publicly disclosed in the Netherlands. The perceived additional impact of disclosing reprimands on the professional and personal life of doctors is unclear.

All doctors who received a disciplinary measure from the Dutch Disciplinary Board between July 2012 and August 2016 were invited to partake in
a 60-item questionnaire concerning the respondents’ characteristics, the complaint, experience with the procedure and perceived impact of the procedure on health and professional functioning as reported by doctors themselves. The response rate was 43% (n=210). 21.4% received a reprimand (disclosed); the remainder received a warning (not disclosed). Differences between the two groups were calculated.

Respondents with a reprimand reported significantly more negative experiences and impact on health and work than respondents with a warning. 37.8% of the doctors said their health was very good. A small percentage reported moderate-to-severe depressive complaints (3.6%), moderate-to-severe anxiety disorder (2%) or indications of burnout (10.8%). The majority reported changes in their professional practices associated with ‘defensive medicine’, such as doing more supplementary research (41%) and complying more with patients’ wishes (35%).

The Dutch disciplinary procedure has strong negative side effects, that disclosing measures seems to increase. Dutch disciplinary law aims to contribute to the quality of professional practice. A safe environment is a basic condition for quality improvement and therefore, disclosure of disciplinary measures should be carefully considered. Disclosure of disciplinary measures has always been controversial and the results of this study has rekindled this debate. Recently, a majority in the Dutch House of Representatives has voted against disclosure of reprimands, leaving disclosure of reprimands a discretion of the disciplinary board when deemed appropriate or necessary.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere023576
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019




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