FOI request uncovers drink and drugs problem in the medical profession

According to an investigation carried out by BBC TV's Real Story, over 700 doctors or nurses have been disciplined for offences at work involving drugs or alcohol in the past 10 years. But the figures, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, may seriously under-represent the scale of the problem.

The British Medical Association has stated that doctors are three times more likely to suffer from cirrhosis of the liver than the general population and 1 in 15 is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA ethics committee, said "You've got a profession that doesn't want to face up to the fact that it's got a problem in the ranks. You've got levels of denial that make it virtually impossible for an alcoholic doctor to be helped."

According to the TV programme, unlike other professions responsible for public safety, such as airline pilots and tube drivers, the NHS does not have strict rules to govern staff drinking before duty.

Doctors in denial over problem of drink, says BMA chief (Daily Telegraph, 13 June 2005)