Sexual harassment rampant in the NHS: Report
The report shows that 63% of women had been the target of sexual harassment from colleagues.
Women surgeons in the UK National Health Services (NHS) are subject to sexual harassment and misconduct, BBC News exclusively reported, citing a report conducted by the University of Exeter, the University of Surrey, and the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery.
The study was conducted on a sample of 1,434 surgeons (divided evenly between men and women). The findings showed that:
- 63% of women had been the target of sexual harassment from colleagues;
- 30% of women had been sexually assaulted by a colleague;
- 11% of women reported forced physical contact related to career opportunities;
- At least 11 incidents of rape were reported;
- 90% of women and 81% of men had witnessed some form of sexual misconduct.
BBC News spoke to women who were sexually assaulted in the operating theatre while surgery took place and described figuratively how the incidents unfolded.
The report depicts a culture of silence around such behavior. Women interviewed expressed a lack of confidence in the retaliatory measures the NHS would take, adding that they fear that reporting it would have a negative impact on their careers.
"We need a major change in investigation processes so they become external and independent, and are trusted in order for healthcare to become a safer place to work," said Prof Carrie Newlands, consultant surgeon from the University of Surrey.
The British Medical Association called the findings "atrocious".
Dr Latifa Patel, BMA equality lead, said, "It is appalling that women in surgery are being subjected to sexual assault and sexual misconduct from their colleagues, at work and often whilst they are trying to care for patients. The impact this will have on their wellbeing for years to come as well as their careers is profound."
Tim Mitchell, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, told the BBC the survey's findings are "deeply shocking and will be a source of great embarrassment to the surgical profession," acknowledging it is "clear it is a common problem" that has not been addressed.
The most common case scenario was between women trainees and male seniors where the hierarchy allows for the abuse to go unreported and without accountability, as per the report.
A report published back in May by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed that two out of every three women face sexual harassment, bullying, or verbal abuse in the workplace in the UK.
However, the incidents are not reported by most victims out of fear that they will be discredited or that it might affect work relationships and career prospects.
Less than one in every three women informed their employer of the incidents in question.
Work locations such as offices weren't the only places in which these incidents occurred: phone, text messages, emails, social media, and virtual meetings were also included. They weren't isolated occurrences either, they were frequent.