A new report reveals that only 20 per cent of UK doctors feel they are always able to act in their patients best interests and feel they have the necessary resource to maintain high standards. Many cited that this pressure has created new moral challenges, which they struggle with during their careers.

The report, which was compiled by the University of Birmingham's Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues - a world-leading research body specialising in character education, examines the views of 549 doctors and medical students on the subject of moral ethics within the medical profession.

Through a series of surveys and in-depth interviews, the report reveals that honesty, fairness, judgement, leadership, teamwork and kindness are the personal attributes rated above all others within the medical profession. However the report also reveals that, while British doctors see good moral character as vital, their ability to put this into practice is often hampered by time and budget pressures associated with modern day medicine. Interviews with doctors revealed that many feel more help is needed to ensure that they are able to manage these pressures and the ensuing challenges they create appropriately.

The research suggests that one of the weak links in the system may be caused by oversights in the current curriculum. While medical training provides guidance around basic 'bedside manner' and formal codes of conduct, an important middle ground, relating to the development of their moral character, is essentially lacking. The Jubilee Centre recommends that more should be done to formally train doctors in the practice of applying virtues, such as compassion and care, as well as teaching the harmonisation of personal and professional morals.

Commenting on these findings, Kristján Kristjánsson, Deputy Director at the Jubilee Centre said:

"It's important to emphasise that we are not talking here about ripping up what's already happening in this field. Ethics has always been a central to good medical education and practice.

"Our study found that those going into the profession do so overwhelmingly because they want to help people. There is also widespread agreement on the personal qualities that are needed to be a good doctor. So there is a fantastic foundation to build on.

"But we also found areas that could be improved. In the current time-poor and budget-constrained environment, the ethical training of doctors needs to evolve from a narrow rule-based system that tries to apply a narrow set of rules to a broad range of scenarios, to one that develops the moral reasoning of doctors and that operates within a more flexible moral framework.

"Academic research has shown that good ethical practice can only be developed through clear and consistent ethical training, during university training, and beyond during professional development. That is why the Jubilee Centre is recommending a review of ethics education within the medicine profession."

The Jubilee Centre's 'Virtuous Medical Practice' report was launched by Professor David Haslam, Chairman of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), on 14th January 2015 at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London.