Objectives: To examine assumptions made by proponents and critics of clinical directorate (CD) structures in hospitals. Proponents argue that CDs are supported by the health professionals who constitute them and confer organisational and clinical benefits compared with traditional structural configurations. Critics deny these benefits and suggest CDs can compromise clinicians by incorporating them into management, to their cost. We investigated the attitudes of health professionals working in CDs to gather and consider evidence for these claims.
Methods: A questionnaire survey of 227 health professionals (78 doctors, 89 nurses and 60 allied health) in two large hospitals in Australia that had implemented CDs three years previously.
Results: Respondents were more negative than positive about CDs. Significant attitudinal differences were found between professions. Doctors were the most negative and held their attitudes with the greatest certainty and intensity. Allied health staff were the most positive but their attitudes tended to lack strength or certainty. Nurses' attitudes were polarised and intense but more positive than were doctors'. Increased organisational politics was cited by 58% of respondents as CDs' most frequent effect, followed by improved accountability (48%) and dumping hard decisions on staff (39%). Only 26% thought patient care had improved.
Conclusions: Clinical directorates were designed to promote team approaches and to improve patient care delivery, but the results call for a rethink of what can be expected from structural reforms in organisations.