The leader of Scotland’s doctors has called for urgent action to stamp out bullying and harassment in the health service.
BMA Scotland council chair Lewis Morrison said it was a ‘scandal’ that a culture of bullying and harassment should be allowed to thrive in the NHS, and warned of its repercussions for patient care.
Dr Morrison said the BMA would launch a major initiative in 2019 to understand doctors’ experience of this unacceptable behaviour, to probe causes, and find solutions.
The BMA is calling on other stakeholders, including the Scottish Government and NHS managers, to work together to make Scotland’s NHS a more positive place to work, including a summit planned for early summer.
A recent BMA survey of members revealed that almost four in 10 (38 per cent) say that bullying and harassment is an issue in their workplaces, while a combination of high vacancy rates and real-terms pay cuts have led to doctors feeling undervalued.
‘Doctors have told us that bullying and harassment is still widespread and recent high-profile cases only serve to underline those concerns,’ Dr Morrison (pictured below) said.
‘Every single case will have a serious impact on the doctor concerned. It threatens to undermine them and prevent them from focusing on patients.
‘In any workplace, these levels of bullying would be extremely worrying. In the health service, where what we do can make the difference between life and death, it is nothing less than a scandal.
'Ultimately, the level of bullying and harassment we currently see in Scotland’s NHS can only have serious negative repercussions for the care it provides.’
Put off work
Dr Morrison said the situation risked exacerbating recruitment and retention issues by driving doctors to early retirement and putting people off applying to work in the health service.
He also said that while bullying and harassment was always unacceptable, many doctors felt that a high-pressure environment focused on unattainable targets was having a negative effect on workplace cultures at all levels.
‘If we are to truly address this issue there must be greater efforts to ensure doctors feel able to speak out about instances of bullying without fear of what may happen to their careers as a result.
'We have heard plenty of reassuring words on this, in particular from the Scottish Government, yet our survey of members still found that one quarter would fear speaking out about bullying. Again, that figure is far too high,’ Dr Morrison said.
The Scottish Government has taken action to address concerns, including setting up an independent review into allegations of bullying in NHS Highland, but Dr Morrison has called for more to be done.
‘Transforming this working environment and building a more positive and supportive culture across our NHS must be a priority for all those involved in running our health service in 2019,’ he said.
‘On behalf of our members, the BMA in Scotland is committed to playing its part. We plan to spend the early part of next year building a full picture of the experience of members, and looking for their views on what steps might be taken to support them.
'We’ll bring that all together with a summit for key stakeholders early in the summer.
'We will be hoping for a similar commitment, both from the Government and across NHS management – and welcome the positive indications they have already made on this agenda. Hardworking doctors, who have devoted their careers to our NHS and the people it cares for, deserve nothing less.’
Read the survey
Find out more about the NHS Highland review
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