Fresh concerns over bullying in the NHS

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Almost two in five doctors believe there is a “problem” with bullying in their work place, medics have warned.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that bullying and harassment are causing lasting harm to doctors and their careers.

And the impact on patient care and safety is “serious”, the union warned.

The new report comes after a senior health inspector told the Health Select Committee the regulator was “worried” about bullying across the NHS.

On Tuesday, Professor Ted Baker, the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector of hospitals, told the group of MPs: “Bullying in the healthcare system is still a worry for us, it occurs in all organisations.

“And it is a worry not just because it affects staff but because it affects the safety and wellbeing of patients.

“And we are very clear that if we identify significant bullying in trusts, that reflects very strongly in our reports on their leadership.”

Meanwhile, the new BMA report details how bullying does not solely spring from personal relationships, but also pressures in the system, poor working environments, top-down “command and control” leadership, and culture.

It highlights how 39% of UK doctors said they believed there was a problem with bullying, undermining or harassment in their workplace.

And almost two in three (65%) felt pressure of work was the main reason behind bullying, according a poll of just under 8,000 British doctors.

Dr Anthea Mowat, BMA representative body chairwoman, said: “Bullying in medicine can bring to mind images of a junior doctor being shouted at by a senior, or a surgeon angrily throwing instruments across the room.

“But the experiences we have heard through the BMA’s bullying and harassment project show it can affect all kinds of doctor and medical student.

“We know that other staff in the NHS are affected too – one in four according to the NHS staff surveys.

“As well as damaging staff, bullying also impacts on patients and the consequences for patient care and safety are serious.

“In workplaces where bullying is common, communication and teamwork suffer, and staff are afraid to raise legitimate concerns about patient care or safety.

“The BMA report not only looks at the problems but also offers some real solutions to bring an end to a culture that has existed for far too long.”

Commenting on the report, Paul Wallace, director of employment relations and reward at NHS Employers, said: “It is disheartening to see that so many UK doctors suffer from bullying, undermining and harassment.

“This kind of behaviour in the NHS or any workplace is completely unacceptable, and we will continue to work with employers to make sure doctors feel supported to speak up, if they or their colleagues face mistreatment at work.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Bullying in any form is completely unacceptable and we expect trusts to take robust action to ensure their staff are being treated with respect and professionalism.

“We are committed to reducing bullying rates in the NHS and are reviewing whether existing rules go far enough to make sure bullying is tackled in the workplace.”

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