Factors that contribute to effective teamworking for doctors

Read this new study by the General Medical Council (GMC) that looks into the enablers and barriers for effective teamworking.

17 April 2024

The research, commissioned by the GMC and carried out at the University of York, explored how doctors and other health professionals work together and across teams, what contributes to effective team working and the elements that make it challenging.  

Good communication and effective leadership were shown to lead to greater team efficiency and made it easier to resolve issues, ultimately having a positive impact on patient outcomes. 

The report also identified other enablers for effective team working as being:

  • ensuring time and structures are in place to allow teams to meet regularly
  • a positive and supportive culture
  • effective communication
  • leaders who are understanding and approachable
  • clearly defined roles and respect for all team members
  • continuity and experience of those in newer roles.

The research suggested that employers should focus on supporting work environments, prioritising the enablers, as well as strengthening staff development opportunities and following the best organisational practices to encourage teamwork. The report also said that teamwork should be focused on more during medical undergraduate training. 

Researchers identified some of the barriers that hindered effective teamworking:

  • Where there is a lack of mutual respect and support. 
  • Unapproachable leadership.
  • Poor communication.
  • If roles and purpose of a team are unclear.

The research also showed how perceived power imbalances and hierarchies where leaders are seen as being out of touch can be a major barrier, leading to ‘intimidating, toxic or bullying culture’. The research found this caused members of the team feeling unable to speak up, resulting in more errors and poor patient care. 

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: 

‘We know healthcare teams across the UK are working under extraordinary pressures and facing evermore complex challenges. That can inevitably create friction and impact on effective teamworking. That’s why it’s vital every team member, regardless of experience, feels empowered to speak up. That doesn’t necessarily lie with individuals working within a team. It is a much bigger, cultural picture that all of us in the UK health systems must work harder to nurture and prioritise.’