Responding to a Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery survey, which found that a third of NHS female surgical staff had been sexually assaulted by colleagues in the past five years, Dr Latifa Patel, BMA equality lead, said:
“The scale and severity of sexual assault against female surgeons over the past five years, revealed by this survey, is atrocious. It is appalling that women in surgery are being subjected to sexual assault and sexual misconduct from their colleagues, at work and often whilst they are trying to care for patients. The impact this will have on their wellbeing for years to come as well as their careers is profound.
“These findings come just four months after a study by the BMJ found evidence of more than 35,000 sexual safety incidents had been recorded in NHS hospitals in England over the past five years. While these also included assaults by and against patients, the issue of NHS staff being subjected to harms of this nature, while they are at work, is clearly significant.
“Sexual assault and sexual misconduct not only has a profound impact on those who are attacked and those who witness it, but can also understandably, then affect the quality of care and the way in which they care for patients. This has to stop. Through our ‘Ending Sexism in Medicine Pledge’, the BMA has long called for more to be done to require employers to bring in policies that eliminate any form of sexual harassment in the workplace. This survey shows the need more than ever for action to be taken urgently and we will continue to highlight the prevalence of these behaviours being experienced by doctors and the fears around reporting that prevent people from speaking up.
“Doctors who abuse their positions to commit sexual assault have no place in the medical profession. The GMC has to review its outcomes of sexual misconduct cases in order to identify whether institutional sexism is playing a part in how seriously claims are taken. Only then, by working together and being accountable for what has and continues to happen, with the implementation of clearer policies and codes of conduct, can we change the culture that enables sexual harassment in the workplace.
“It is truly horrifying to continue to hear about the experiences of these women; we encourage them and their colleagues who experience sexual harassment and sexism of any kind to seek support from the BMA. These dreadful actions must be challenged and not be tolerated any longer.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.