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NHS staff facing alarming levels of sexual harassment, UNISON survey reveals

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Around 61 per cent of NHS Staff  has experienced “unwanted crude banter” or “jokes” in the workplace

A recent UNISON survey has unearthed disturbing findings regarding the prevalence of sexual harassment among NHS staff across the UK. With data collected from over 12,000 healthcare workers, the survey sheds light on the challenges faced by frontline workers in their workplace environments.

Approximately 10 per cent of healthcare professionals reported instances of sexual harassment during their tenure, with nearly 29 per cent of those experiencing harassment also reporting incidents of sexual assault.

Shockingly, 50 per cent of respondents reported being leered at or subjected to suggestive gestures, while a quarter faced unwelcome sexual advances or demands for favors.

The most common complaint, voiced by 61 per cent of those affected, was the experience of unwanted crude banter or jokes in the workplace.

Concerningly, over a quarter of the reported incidents occurred within the past 12 months, underscoring the urgency of addressing the issue.

Despite the severity of these incidents, half of the victims chose not to report the harassment to their employers. Reasons for underreporting included fear of being labeled oversensitive and a lack of trust in the reporting process.

Testimonies shared by survey respondents detailed experiences ranging from unwanted sexual comments to physical assault and even rape. The emotional toll of such incidents was palpable, with many expressing feelings of discomfort, fear, and frustration.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea emphasised the urgency of addressing sexual harassment within the NHS, stating, “No one should ever have to endure such despicable behavior, and certainly not in their place of work.”

“More must be done to protect nurses, healthcare assistants, cleaners and other NHS staff from sexual harassment, reassure them their complaints will be fully investigated and action taken against the perpetrators,” she added.

She called for robust measures to create a safe and supportive work environment for healthcare workers, urging employers to take swift action and hold perpetrators accountable.

In response to these findings, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) denounced such behavior as “unacceptable” and emphasized the importance of reporting incidents as per BBC. 

Measures are being taken to ensure staff feel comfortable raising concerns, with ongoing collaboration between the department and the NHS to address and prevent such behavior.

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