One in five NHS workers has been bullied by colleagues: Managers named worst offenders as increasing workloads take their toll.
One in five NHS staff say they have been bullied in the workplace – and managers are the worst offenders.
Almost half said they have witnessed bullying within the NHS in the last six months, according to a new survey.
Among the most common complains were being deliberately ignored and public humiliation by colleagues. Unhealthy environment: One in five NHS staff have been subjected to bullying by a colleague and 43 per cent have witnessed similar behaviour
Almost 3,000 NHS staff took part in the Durham University study, published in the online journal BMJ Open .
One in five of respondents had been bullied by colleagues within the past six months, ranging from rarely to daily. Over 40 per cent had witnessed other staff being bullied at work, at least now and then, in the preceding six months, with one in 20 witnessing it weekly or daily.
The respondents worked in secondary care, primary care and mental health NHS trusts and all types of staff were represented, but the largest proportion of respondents were drawn from support staff, trainee doctors and dentists, healthcare assistants and nurses caring for adults.
Only between 2.7 per cent and 14 per cent of staff reported bullying to someone in authority, with a disbelief it would help and a fear of being branded a trouble-maker among the reasons for not coming forward.
The most common complaints were:
- Unmanageable workloads
- Withholding key information
- Public humiliation
- Being deliberately ignored
- Being shouted at or the target of an angry outburst.
Professor Jan Illing, of the Centre for Medical Education Research at Durham University, who headed the study said other research has already shown that bullying was more prevalent in hierarchical organisations – like the NHS.
She said the recent report into the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal found bullying had stopped members of staff from speaking out about poor practice. Previous research has also shown bullying needs to be tackled from the top, she said.
‘Trusts should look at policies and consider what they can do to reduce workplace bullying,’ she said. ‘There needs to be a commitment from the chief executive and once that is in place, things are likely to happen.’
Are we really saying that the five points listed above constitute bullying behaviour? Unmanageable workloads is highly subjective and could be no more than “assertive management” What does public humiliation mean? – possible a shouting match between two angry members of staff. Being deliberately ignored may be nothing more than someone being “oversensitive” when they feel they “should” have been told something but were not. It seems to me that many people have become detached from the reality of the world and anything that upsets them in the workplace is now interpreted as bullying. Bullying does take place but one has to ask about some of the interpretations of what constitutes bullying.