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Over 58,000 NHS staff faced ‘unwanted sexual behaviour’ from the public

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Ambulance staff were particularly affected by sexual harassment from the public last year.

The results of a national NHS staff survey, published recently, revealed that frontline healthcare workers are facing record levels of discrimination at work, with 58,000 respondents reporting that they experienced “unacceptable” levels of unwanted sexual behaviour from the public last year.

Concerningly, 8.67 per cent of 675,140 NHS workers who responded to the poll said they suffered sexual harassment from patients, patients’ relatives, or other members of the public in 2023.

Particularly, ambulance staff were affected, with nearly 25 per cent of staff reporting unwanted sexual behaviour from the public last year.

According to the survey findings, 3.84 per cent of staff also encountered unwanted sexual behaviour from their colleagues.

Dr Navina Evans, Chief Workforce, Training and Education Officer, described the survey results as “very distressing” and said that “such conduct should not be tolerated in the NHS.”

On the positive side, more NHS workers reported being happier at work and experiencing less burnout than before. Over half of the participants stated they look forward to coming to work, the highest number since 2020, as per the NHS.

Dr Evans attributed this improvement to initiatives such as flexible working hours, clinical support squads to help menopausal women at work, and human resources stay advocates.

The NHS launched its first ever Sexual safety charter at the end of last year to improve reporting on unacceptable behaviour. Additionally, more than 300 domestic abuse and sexual violence leads were appointed to review and improve trust policies for reporting sexual harassment.

The survey also showed that staff’s willingness to talk about experiences of harassment, bullying or abuse has increased, with more than 51 per cent feeling empowered to raise incidents, a rise from 49.81 per cent in 2022.

NHS workers are now more confident in asking for more flexible work options, thanks to the 2020 NHS People Plan which mandated trusts to offer staff flexible working hours from day one of their employment.

 

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