Bullying is a pernicious problem in the NHS. That is the stark finding from the survey we carried out earlier this year. The online survey of more than 1,500 doctors, nurses and other health workers in hospitals, primary care and community settings, found that 81% had experienced bullying and for almost half of them (44%), it is still ongoing. Close to nine out of 10 bullying victims who responded have been left with their cases unresolved.
The findings outlined the devastating impact of bullying. A third of victims said they had been pushed out of their jobs, with many developing serious mental health problems as a result, while almost three-quarters reported increased stress and panic attacks.
Respondents who have been bullied took on average 108 days off work and almost a third (31%) said they were signed-off sick. These points were further outlined in a roundup of responses received from those who got in touch with experiences of bullying.
“The culture is driven by exerting undue pressure on others to get things done. If you don’t, you are targeted and eventually you end up with stress and depression,” one NHS manager said.
Sue Covill, director of development and employment at NHS Employers, (the employers’ organisation for the NHS in England) admits the results are worrying. “Bullying is completely unacceptable and the ongoing work to tackle it is vital for all NHS organisations, leaders and staff,” she says. “To improve the working lives of our staff and deliver the best possible care to patients, we need to create supportive, positive, open and collegiate cultures in our organisations across the health system.”
My thoughts: Anyone who has been through bullying at work, or can remember times at school when they were bullied, will know it to be an isolating, debilitating and destructive experience, affecting many aspects of their well-being. The financial implications in this survey by The Guardian Healthcare Professionals Network is concerning, with so many staff off with stress. But a the heart of this report, are broken people…broken by the organisation that, that is supposed to heal.
There is a need for a for more human connection and empathy embedded in the culture. With empathy cited as the Number 1 skill of a good Leader, there is no excuse for not utilising and optimising this natural resource to combat bullying.
As someone who has been through a very defensive and bullying NHS Compliants System, I am horrified that 55% said raising a concern prompted the abuse.
Dr Anthea Mowat, chair of the British Medical Association’s representative body, says in the guardian article that the survey results should act as an urgent wake-up call to employers. “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 says. “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.”