Doctors’ professional values: results from a cohort study of United Kingdom medical graduates


Lorelei Cooke, Health Policy and Economic Research Unit, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JP, UK Tel.: 020 7383 6735; Fax: 020 7383 6565; E-mail:



To examine young doctors’ views on a number of professional issues including professional regulation, multidisciplinary teamwork, priority setting, clinical autonomy and private practice.


Postal survey of 545 doctors who graduated from United Kingdom medical schools in 1995.


Questionnaires were returned by 95% of the cohort (515/545). On issues of professional regulation, teamwork and clinical autonomy, the majority of doctors held views consistent with current General Medical Council guidance. The majority supported the right of doctors working in the NHS to engage in private practice. Most respondents thought that public expectations of doctors, medicine and the NHS were too high, and that some form of rationing was inevitable. On many issues there was considerable variation in attitudes on the basis of sex and intended branch of medicine.


The results highlight the heterogeneity of the profession and the influence of specialty and gender on professional values. Doctors’ attitudes had also been shaped by broader social changes, especially debates surrounding regulation of the profession, rising public expectations and the need for rationing of NHS care.