Eight of 10 doctors strongly agree that they should put patient welfare before their own financial interests, and 4 of 10 do not believe they should inform their patients about financial conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical companies, according to a survey evaluating the professional values and behaviors of almost 3,000 doctors in the United States and United Kingdom.

The survey of 2,000 US doctors and 1,000 UK doctors, published in this month’s issue of BMJ Quality & Safety, also found that American doctors were more accepting of potential conflicts of interest than their counterparts in Britain. Additionally, nearly a fifth of doctors in both countries had direct personal experience of an impaired or incompetent colleague in the previous 3 years, but 1/3 had not reported this colleague to a relevant authority.

Also among the findings:

82.8% UK vs 49.6% US participated in the development of practice guidelines.

70.9% UK vs 55.7% US participated in formal medical error-reduction programs.

23.4% UK vs 53.9% US completely agreed to a need for periodic recertification.

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73.8% UK vs 88.4% US completely agreed that all the benefits and risks of a procedure should be explained to the patient.

70.2% UK vs 63.5% US completely agreed that significant medical errors should always be disclosed to affected patients when things went wrong.

88.7% UK vs 84.2% US completely agreed that they should minimize disparities in care due to race, gender or religion.

60.0% UK vs 46.7% US considered business relationships with patients as “never appropriate.”

0.8% UK vs 8.7% US provided care for someone with whom they had a financial relationship.

The survey found that while there is a significant core of professional values among physicians in both countries, behaviors may be shaped by external factors. The authors conclude that,  “especially at times of major healthcare reform, as both the USA and UK currently face, doctors have an important responsibility to develop their healthcare systems in ways which will support good professional behavior.”