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To provide the highest quality compassionate care to our patients we need to feel valued, supported and free to speak up. Following the BMA report on culture and the need to create a supportive environment, their recent roundtable captured these elements precisely. I was optimistic to see the level of consensus and positivity in the room, with everyone committed to improving the working culture in the NHS.
However, those present were fully aware of the factors that inhibit this improvement. With many participants having a clinical background we understood the real-world challenges of making change happen.
As a practising GP, I am acutely aware of the pressure and fatigue felt by those in my profession as identified in the BMA report. We want to do the very best for our patients but this is not sustainable and the human cost is burnout.
As National Guardian for the NHS, I recognise that we need a whole system approach and that leaders play a vital role to achieve lasting change. Our data shows the highest performing organisations are perceived to have better speaking up cultures. A supportive environment makes a real difference to staff wellbeing and patient outcomes.
That’s why I was so pleased to attend the roundtable and work with initiatives across health and other sectors to promote and share best practice. The recent anti-bullying alliance document produced in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is a good example of this. The document calls out bullying and harassment, shares resources and provides inspiration for improvement.
Bullying is estimated to cost the NHS over £2bn annually in sickness absence and psychological harm. Incivility risks the safety of our patients as it impacts on cognitive function and makes it less likely that we identify an error or to offer help.
The BMA is one of a growing number of national organisations that have joined the alliance against bullying and harassment in the NHS. This alliance includes Department of Health and Social Care, NHS Improvement, NHS Employers, GMC, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, Social Partnership Forum, Royal Colleges and many others. The anti-bullying alliance recognises that by working in partnership, we can support leaders to foster an environment where civility flourishes and negative behaviours are not permitted.
I am very much looking forward to the interim report I know the BMA is working on further to our roundtable discussion and has said it will publish later this year. Again, showing this form of leadership to really address the issues is key to ensuring this agenda moves forward.
It is clear that there is still more work to be done to create a truly caring and supportive NHS where all health workers have an environment that is supportive and free from bullying and harassment. But I think the work we, the BMA, and partners are doing, will lead to the culture change we need.
Henrietta Hughes is the National Guardian for the NHS
The NHS is the problem. Planning how Doctors could escape the NHS would do more to improve Doctor's working lives than endless worthy chatfests and blind loyalty to a failed ideology.
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