Press Release: NHS bullying and harassment – a culture shift required

The Doctors’ Association UK press release regarding the report in The Guardian titled “Bullying and sexual harassment endemic in NHS hospitals.”

The Doctors’ Association UK is concerned about the reported increase in bullying and harassment of NHS staff. This comes at a time where morale in the NHS is low as recruitment and retention of staff is becoming more difficult.

We would encourage those experiencing bullying and harassment to report it but recognise that significant barriers to this still exist. For all the wonderful reasons that the NHS is great to work in, it unfortunately still harbours a culture of hierarchy and mechanisms whereby bullying and harassment go unchallenged.

The use of non-disclosure agreements in certain cases is also alarming. Often these are sought by NHS Trusts rather than individual victims of bullying or harassment and are used to limit the reputational damage of NHS organisations. Unfortunately, the use of such means to suppress information and prevent victims speaking out, feeds into a culture where bullying and harassment are free to continue.

A worrying feature is that many junior doctors and nurses feel that a degree of bullying from senior colleagues is the norm, and to be expected. This in turn leads to unsafe practices, stress, burnout and to the rise in mental health conditions reported by NHS staff, all of which negatively impact on patients.

Dr Rinesh Parmar, Vice-Chair of DAUK, said “We welcome this report which shines a light on bullying and harassment in the NHS. We worry however that this increase in reported incidents is merely a drop in the ocean and that many instances still go unreported. A culture change is desperately required, one where colleagues are supported when reporting incidents and those in positions of power and responsibility cannot abuse those positions.”

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