Scotland's chief medical officer wants debate on 'over-treatment' of patients

Dr Catherine Calderwood
Image caption Dr Catherine Calderwood took on the chief medical post last year

Scotland's chief medical officer has called for her profession to debate the issue of "over-treating".

Dr Catherine Calderwood said in her annual report that doctors should have greater discussions with their patients on when not to be treated.

She wants more questions to be asked about practice and outcomes; for waste to be reduced and innovative ideas to be encouraged.

The consultant obstetrician took on the post at the beginning of last year.

Who works for NHS Scotland?


Total number of staff

  • 4,918 - General practitioners

  • 4,902 - Consultants

  • 5,656 - Medical trainees

  • 43,237 - Nurses and midwives

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In her first report, Dr Calderwood said: "In striving to provide relief from discomfort, illness and death, modern medicine can sometimes over-reach itself and provide treatment that is of little long-term benefit to the patient.

"This is especially true when a person has multiple conditions, each of which has its own list of recommended medicines and treatments.

"Realistic medicine is about moving away from the 'doctor knows best' culture. It's about more fully involving patients in the decisions about their care.

"Of course this will only happen if people are prepared to have these conversations in this way with their doctors."

'New attitudes and skills'

Responding to the report, Dr Brian Robson, who is executive clinical director from Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said Dr Calderwood was right to point out that "patients and families are at the centre of their own care".

He added that the report was a "must read" for doctors because it set out the "new attitudes, skills and behaviours required".

Dr Calderwood's report also included a summary of data on the health of the nation - focusing on obesity, cancer mortality and smoking rates.

She said she would be speaking to doctors over the coming months to ask them what they think about these issues.

Dr Calderwood, who took over from Sir Harry Burns, added: "I hope to engage the profession in a dialogue about where we are going, and what role doctors can play in shaping the future of the NHS."

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