Trust matters for doctors? Towards an agenda for research

Tom Douglass, Michael Calnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Sociological research offers crucial understanding of the salience of trust for patients in mediating a plurality of healthcare activities and settings. Whilst insights generated surrounding the salience of trust for patients are important, other trusting relations within healthcare have largely been neglected. This paper focuses on the significance of trust for doctors, arguing that trust is salient for doctors in facilitating their professional role, in the management of complexity and uncertainty in contemporary medical practice, and is a key mechanism underpinning professional identity. As such, the paper develops a preliminary conceptual framework for researching trust by doctors built upon the idea of a 'lattice' of doctor trust relations in various entities and at various levels that may be interconnected. The lattice of doctor trust comprises four primary conceptualisations - trust in patients, self-trust, workplace trust and system trust. The paper explores the notions of doctors' need to trust patients to provide accurate information and to commit to certain treatment pathways; the relationship between the self-trust of the doctor, clinical activity and trust in others; the need for doctors to trust their professional colleagues and the broader organisational setting to ensure the smooth running of services and integration of care; and notions surrounding the complexity of the broader systems of modern (bio)medicine and the role of trust by doctors to facilitate system functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-413
JournalSocial Theory and Health
Issue number4
Early online date24 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • healthcare
  • patients
  • trust by doctors
  • uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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