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Health care personnel can be given different administrative reactions by the supervision authorities. Some people believe that these are given too often, in other words, that too much emphasis is placed on personal responsibility. Other people believe that they are given too infrequently. In this study, doctors’ beliefs about the level of use of administrative reactions were investigated.

Questions about the use of administrative reactions were included in a questionnaire given to the reference panel of the Norwegian Medical Association’s research institute in the autumn of 2008. The response rate was about 70 per cent. We described doctors’ beliefs about the level of use of administrative reactions, and we investigated whether there are systematic differences in the beliefs of different groups of doctors.

In general, doctors overestimate the probability for doctors to be given an administrative reaction, and they underestimate the probability for breach of duty being pointed out. At the same time, a majority of the doctors underestimated the actual number of administrative reactions, and the number of times breach of duty was pointed out. There is some variation between doctors with regard to their estimations, and there are systematic differences between groups of doctors. Male doctors in private practice reported the highest estimates for the use of administrative reactions.

It must be said that the doctors in this study estimated the number of administrative reactions surprisingly well. This indicates that as a group they are relatively well informed about how often administrative reactions are given by the supervision authorities. At the same time, there are a few doctors who have very unrealistic beliefs about how often administrative reactions are given. More and better information to this group may cause a change in their beliefs, but is not certain whether such changes would lead to changes in their clinical practice.