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'Consultants And Their Teams'

The Patient's Charter says that you have a right to be referred to a consultant acceptable to you, when your GP thinks it necessary.

If you are admitted to hospital it will be under the care of a particular consultant who leads a team of doctors, sometimes known as a firm. The number of women doctors is increasing. Half of all medical graduates are now women and 18% of consultants. Women account for a quarter of consultants in paediatrics, psychiatry and pathology but there are some specialties where the representation is much lower, particularly in surgery (4% women). Nevertheless you should state if you have a preference to see a female (or male) doctor at an early stage so this can be accommodated where possible. The main hospital grades of doctors are:

  • Consultant

  • Associate specialist

  • Staff doctor

  • Specialist registrar

  • Senior house officer

  • Pre-registration house officer

All of these grades are qualified doctors. In teaching hospitals, and in some other hospitals, medical students may accompany the consultant on his ward round. It is assumed that you have no objection to medical students being present when you are being examined. You are perfectly entitled to refuse permission if you would prefer them not to be present. You cannot, however, object to the presence of other doctors and nurses.

Guidelines issued by The Royal College of Surgeons of England ('Consultant responsibility in invasive procedures' - 1990) have emphasised the ultimate responsibility of the consultant for every operation, even if he or she is not physically there. The extent to which procedures can be delegated must depend on the consultant's knowledge of the ability and experience of the team.

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