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Reduce bullying rates in the NHS

Last updated: 09:33am 17 May 2019

We will act to reduce bullying rates in the NHS, which are far too high.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.68

Our verdict

The 2017 NHS Staff Survey found that “24.3% of staff experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from staff in the last 12 months”, and that “28.0% of staff experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public”. With more than a quarter of all staff encountering these problems, this policy promises to “reduce bullying rates in the NHS”.

On 28th November 2018, a review of challenges faced by NHS leaders published by the government pointed out that stressful conditions had contributed to the rise of a culture of bullying and discrimination. The report suggested the NHS should reduce levels of bureaucracy and align practices with clearer expectations within the workplace.

Research by the British Medical Association (BMA) published in late 2018 found that workplace bullying in the NHS remains a significant issue, with two in five doctors saying bullying and harassment are problems in their workplace.

The BMA issued a series of policy recommendations to accompany its research findings, with a three-pronged approach to tackling the problem of workplace bullying:

  • End the silence
  • Improve resolutions
  • Create a supportive and inclusive culture

In response to the BMA recommendations, the Department of Health and Social Care said:

“[We] are reviewing whether existing rules go far enough to make sure bullying is tackled in the workplace.”

Clearly there is work still to be done as the 2018 Staff Survey reports a 1.1 per cent point increase from 2017 in the number of staff experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse at work from other colleagues, and an increase of 0.3 percent points for staff experiencing this from managers.

The review of NHS leadership challenges shows work has been started towards a strategy to reduce bullying, so for now this is ‘in progress’. We would expect to see the government engage fully with the recommendations put forward by the BMA, and to see statistical evidence of reduced bullying rates before we move this to ‘done’. Follow this policy for updates.

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