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Our NHS is an extremely challenging place to work. Resources are not keeping up with rapidly increasing demand. Vacancy rates are simply too high. The whole system is placed under pressure to meet a raft of targets, some of which tell us very little about the quality of care we deliver.
In these hugely challenging circumstances, we all need to work together and support each other at all levels and across all professions to deliver the very best for patients that we can.
Yet there has been recent and mounting concerns that the NHS in Scotland is not the supportive working environment we all want it to be.
Indeed, just last week we published the results of our member survey, which showed that more than two thirds of doctors say bullying and harassment is an issue in their workplace, and a quarter of doctors would not feel confident in reporting such behaviour.
These are deeply concerning figures. Both statistics are simply too high. Behind the bare numbers are doctors who have been treated badly. Doctors doing one of the most challenging jobs imaginable, under severe pressure, who are then not able to devote their full attention to delivering the best possible care they can for patients. Instead they face being undermined themselves.
The survey results follow several high-profile cases that have come to recent attention, from NHS Lothian to NHS Highland. I suspect, and in fact the figures tell us, that these are not isolated cases.
To turn my attention to NHS Highland specifically, it is important to recognise the progress made in the appointment of an independent QC to investigate exactly what has been happening.
This review must now be allowed to progress openly and with full access to everything it needs to bring to light the full picture of the culture at NHS Highland. At the BMA we will be following the process closely.
The only reason the investigation is happening at all is thanks to individuals at NHS Highland who have spoken out to highlight their concerns.
This is never an easy thing to do. While we must recognise that bravery wherever we find it, we must also do all we can to ensure that those who are subjected to, or witness bullying, and harassment do feel able to speak out without fear of the consequences.
In our view, the scale and significance of this issue is not one we can simply standby and allow to take its course.
So, let me set out exactly what we offer at the BMA, and our plan to do more.
Of course, we will work to support our members, as we have always done, wherever legitimate concerns are raised.
Our Respect at Work Service provides advice on handling difficult relationships and those on the receiving end - or witnessing - unacceptable behaviours by other staff or managers ([email protected]). This fast tracks concerns to local offices and goes directly to Senior Employment Advisors who stand ready to provide support based on individual circumstances.
We also provide courses and learning opportunities designed to empower members to recognise and appropriately challenge any bullying or other inappropriate behaviours. These are often run as local courses and we will be developing these sessions and running more of them across Scotland in the coming months. To add to these sessions, we’ll also include discussions on how we can improve workplace cultures and make our NHS a more positive place to work.
On top of these courses, and individual support, we are also clear that as representatives of our members, there is a contribution we can make to improving the position across the whole of NHS Scotland.
As our survey demonstrates, we are uniquely placed to hear members concerns, highlight the scale of the issue, and gather doctors’ views on how we can make things better.
And that is exactly what we plan to do. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be gathering members views on what exactly the issues are, what the root cause is and what steps doctors believe can make things better.
We will then use this collated information to offer our view on how best to deal with bullying and harassment wherever it occurs, how to effectively help people speak out and the steps needed to develop a more positive workplace culture across the NHS in Scotland.
Our planning of this programme of work is already well underway and will be a key priority both for what remains of 2018 and across the new year. If you have any views, or a contribution to make, do please comment on this blog, or respond to us directly at the following email:
I fear there is a still a fair distance to travel to consign widespread bullying and harassment of doctors to history, but I hope, working together we can make real and substantial progress.
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You refused to speak to me about this very issue, of which I have considerable experience. You cannot represent my views if I have no medical contact.
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