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NHS ‘climate of fear’ must end

Anthea Mowat 2014
MOWAT: those in senior positions in the NHS must lead by example

Doctors say the ‘climate of fear’ in the NHS must end after yet another survey found evidence of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Eight out of 10 respondents to an online survey by The Guardian newspaper said they had experienced bullying behaviour in the health service.

While the newspaper admits its survey was ‘self-selecting’ – so not representative of the NHS workforce – the results have fuelled calls for more strenuous efforts to tackle the problem.

The results echo the more representative 2015 annual NHS survey of nearly 300,000 healthcare professionals in England, which found one in four had experienced bullying, harassment or abuse in the previous 12 months.


Speaking out

According to The Guardian’s survey, 44 per cent of respondents said their experience of bullying was on-going.

Nearly nine out of 10 alleged victims said their cases were still unresolved. Three-quarters of all respondents said they felt the health service did not take bullying seriously.

BMA representative body chair Anthea Mowat said NHS staff should feel able to flag concerns, free from fear of reprisals.

‘If more staff are to speak out, they must be able to raise concerns without fear of being harassed or victimised, and there need to be clear and supportive systems of reporting in place,’ she added.

‘We need to put an end to the climate of fear that has built up in the NHS over a number of years, with those in senior positions in the NHS leading by example to make this a reality.’


SAS zero tolerance

SAS (staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors) called in May for trusts to introduce mandatory training to tackle bullying and for a move towards a culture of zero tolerance for harassment among health professionals.

A survey of SAS doctors in 2015 found that 35 per cent of respondents had been victims of bullying in the workplace on at least one occasion – 58 per cent of those doctors did not report the incident.

Last week a survey by the BMA and GLADD (the Association of LGBT Doctors and Dentists) also identified unacceptable levels of homophobic abuse in the NHS.

Read more about how to address bullying and harassment at work


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