The Doctors’ Association UK attended a roundtable meeting at the House of Lords this morning to address the growing concerns about bullying and harassment in the NHS. The meeting was organised by the General Medical Council (GMC), hosted by Dr Philippa Whitford MP and was attended by key stakeholders including Royal Colleges, NHS Employers, NHS Improvement, the BMA, MPs and Peers. Our members were represented by our Chair Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, Vice-Chair Dr Rinesh Parmar who is leading our work on NHS bullying and undermining and our Law and Policy Lead Dr Jenny Vaughan. This meeting brought together various streams of our work including #NHSMeToo, #CompassionateCulture and #LearnNotBlame.
We heard about the scale of the problem with 25% of staff reporting bullying or harassment in the annual NHS staff survey 2018. There was an acknowledgement that this is likely to under report the true figure. Dr Chris Turner spoke about his campaign Civility Saves Lives, highlighting that rudeness and incivility results in a 38% reduction in the quality of work and a 48% reduction in time spent at work. We know that this has an impact on recruitment and retention of staff but also impacts patient safety.
Dr Henrietta Hughes, the National Freedom to Speak Up Guardian spoke about the work that she and her team had been doing to ensure that there are guardians in each trust. DAUK were later able to present our survey findings (from our Learn Not Blame and The Consulting Room Facebook groups) which revealed that only 24% of respondents felt able to speak up about these issues to their guardian.
The concept of weaponization of the GMC by using referrals to the regulator as a threat to intimidate and bully doctors was also mentioned. DAUK highlighted this to Charlie Massey in our meeting back in October 2018 and will be working with the GMC on strategies going forwards to address this. The topic of bullying of BAME doctors and international medical graduates, their mistreatment and referral rate to the GMC was highlighted. Charlie Massey outlined the work that the GMC has commissioned looking into this area and doctor wellbeing which we look forward to reviewing upon publication later this year.
DAUK’s submission for the meeting outlined a number of issues and areas of concern. These included the culture of bullying and undermining not only amongst doctors but wider clinical and non-clinical staff including NHS managers. There was also recognition that bullying of NHS Chief Executives and Senior Managers breeds a culture where additional pressure is felt by staff at all levels of an organisation, impacting staff morale and patient care. DAUK specifically cited the cases of Dr Chris Day and Professor Edwin Jesudason in our submission with a call for positive reforms of the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) and extension of protections to all clinicians and employees but also to students and volunteers. A discussion about the need for cultural and legislative changes demonstrated the need for work in both of these areas.
The work of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, a collaboration between DAUK and 25 other organisations to call out bullying, harassment and undermining in the NHS highlights the importance of collaboration between organisations such as grassroots clinicians, royal colleges and employers. As a grassroots organisation lobbying for doctors and the NHS, we will continue to work with key stakeholders towards our aim of reforming the NHS to eradicate bullying and undermining.