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Nearly one in ten doctors in training has experienced bullying

One in seven trainee doctors have witnessed bullying in the workplace

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Nearly one in ten doctors in training reported having been bullied, and nearly one in seven have witnessed bulling in the workplace, a survey* of the 50,000 doctors in training by the General Medical Council has found.

Although the figures are an improvement on last year’s GMC National Training Survey, which found that almost one in eight doctors in training had been bullied and one in five had witnessed someone being bullied, this year’s survey shows that there is still a way to go.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “There is a need to create a culture where bullying of any kind is simply not tolerated. Apart from the damage it can do to individual self-confidence, it is likely to make these doctors much more reluctant to raise concerns. They need to feel able to raise the alarm and know that they will be listened to and action taken.

“We are working with those responsible for postgraduate education at local level to respond to this feedback from doctors in training. We need to develop a supportive culture that actively encourages doctors in training to feel confident in raising concerns at an earlier stage.”

The GMC is currently undertaking a series of checks in obstetrics and gynaecology and surgical departments across the UK. Those findings will be published early in 2015. And in order to understand the challenges faced by doctors in training when raising concerns locally, next year’s national training survey will ask additional questions around this area to try to identify good practice and where improvements can be made.

The GMC has also just consulted on what action it should take against doctors who are found to have bullied colleagues and put patients at risk or discriminated against others in both their professional or personal life. The results of the consultation will be published in February next year.

Dr Kitty Mohan, co-chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said doctors have a duty to speak out about concerns over care, but they need the support of the organisations they work for to feel empowered to do so. “This is especially true for doctors in training who may be less confident than more experienced doctors when it comes to raising concerns, so it is extremely worrying that many of those surveyed lack confidence in local reporting systems.

“It is vitally important that the NHS fosters a culture in which doctors feel able to raise concerns about bad care or bullying. It is unacceptable that so many doctors in training continue to either experience or witness bullying. This can lead to doctors being less likely to report concerns, and has a serious impact on both patient care and the quality of doctors’ training.

“If the NHS is to put quality patient care front and centre, and create a working environment in which staff are respected and encouraged rather than bullied and undermined, there needs to be a greater culture of openness and support between management and staff, and confidence that complaints about care or the treatment of staff will be properly acted upon without fear of reprisal.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Managers have a key role in creating the right culture and processes to eliminate and tackle bullying and, in the case of medical staff, the managers are usually doctors too. This is why NHS Employers and healthcare providers will continue to work closely with medical bodies to identify what can be done to tackle dysfunctional and harmful workplace relationships.”


* National training survey 2014 – bullying and undermining. General Medical Council.

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