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MDX academic co-leads investigation into bullying and harassment issues at Royal Stoke University Hospital

About one in ten staff claim they were currently suffering from bullying or harassment


A major independent review - led by the workforce equality charity brap and Middlesex University academic Roger Kline - has investigated harassment and bullying issues at the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Mr Kline and brap surveyed more than 3,500 staff at the University Hospitals of North Midlands trust (UHNM) which runs the hospital in Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire. Bullying is a major concern in the NHS which impacts staff and patient care according to Mr Kline.

Their findings include:

  • About one in 10 survey respondents (11%) claim they are currently suffering from bullying or harassment. One in five (19%) experienced bullying or harassment in the preceding two years that has now stopped. One in five people (21%) report experiencing bullying or harassment from a manager in the last 24 months.
  • Black, Minority and Ethnic (BME) staff are 1.6 times more likely than White staff to report experiencing bullying/harassment from a colleague. In total, 31.7 of BME staff wouldn’t report incidents because they worry they won’t be taken seriously, while 33.4% fear repercussions. Of those from a BME background who felt they had experienced some form of bullying or harassment from a manager, 60% attributed this to their ethnicity (compared with 3% of White British respondents)
  • Six per cent of survey respondents have experienced bullying/harassment from a patient/ visitor in the last 24 months. Many doctors report experiencing comments about their ethnicity or culture, which often include references to people’s accents or occasional requests for a ‘White doctor’
  • However, although there are significant issues at the Trust, especially amongst the medical workforce, the Trust was found to not be an outlier when compared with other NHS organisations
  • The report concluded that UHNM needs to make immediate action to put in place “a big, long-term plan to re-humanise the organisation”, which would create a more “inclusive and equitable culture”.

Mr Roger Kline, a MDX Research Fellow, wrote the influential report on discrimination in the health service entitled the 'The Snowy White Peaks of the NHS' and also designed the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard.

His co-authored research The Price of Fear is the first authoritative estimate of the financial cost of bullying to the NHS – at £2.28 billion per annum.

Commenting on the review findings, Mr Kline said: “Expectations have been raised by the review and the Trust now has an evidence base on which it can assess its performance on tackling bullying and harassment.

“Our report shows that whilst the Trust is by no means an outlier in relation to this agenda there is still more to do.

“The leadership in the Trust now need to set out clear expectations about the behaviours they wish to see. Report findings suggest a culture in which doctors don’t always feel respected and supported by their colleagues.

“Our review also shows there is work to do to support staff across all professions who experience abuse and harassment from patients and the public and unfortunately, the most common ground for this sort of harassment is staff members’ ethnicity.

“We welcome the fact that the Trust has decided to publish these findings to allow an open and informed debate to take place with their staff and local population.

“The Trust benefits from a relatively new leadership team and they have a clear mandate from staff, who want positive change – not only for their own wellbeing but also for patients too.

“The Trust has recognised its challenge and it is time other Trusts – some with much worse track records did the same.”

Dr Matthew Lewis, Medical Director at UHNM, said: “We take these matters very seriously and, after taking action to commission the independent report, we have already made progress on behalf of our workforce to tackle the issues highlighted including investment in a fulltime Freedom to Speak Up Guardian.

“We will not tolerate any form of discrimination, bullying or harassment within UHNM and will continue to work with Brap and Roger Kline to ensure that everyone who works in our hospitals is treated with respect and has the opportunity to develop a fulfilling career.”

Read the review into Royal Stoke University Hospital.

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