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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Many junior doctors bullied
Junior doctors
Junior doctors say they face mistreatment
Many junior doctors in the UK experience bullying during their training, a survey has found.

Researchers sent an anonymous questionnaire to 1,000 doctors with job grades from house officer to senior registrar. Just over half responded.

The doctors were asked whether they had been bullied in the past 12 months, and whether they had witnessed others being bullied.


Belittlement and intimidation from some consultants is the norm and more importantly, the consultant macho ideal that to ask for help is a sign of weakness is commonplace.

Junior doctor
More than one in three (37%) of the doctors who completed the questionnaire said they had suffered from bullying in the past year.

Some 84% said they had experienced at least one bullying behaviour. Nearly seven out of ten had seen others being bullied.

Black and Asian doctors were more likely to be bullied than white doctors, and women were more likely to report being bullied than men.

Reports of bullying did not vary by job grade or age.

Limitations

The researchers, from the University of Kent at Canterbury, admit that their study relied on people's subjective opinions.


Theatre nurses make senior house officers' lives extremely unpleasant.

Junior doctor
But they say the findings suggest too many junior doctors feel that they are being bullied or mistreated.

Dr Trevor Pickersgill, chairman of the British Medical Association's Junior Doctors Committee, said bullying took a wide range of forms.

There were cases of juniors being physically assaulted, pushed around, shouted at and being given a dressing down in front of other staff and patients.

However, some forms of bullying took a more insidious form, such as threats over references.

Part of the problem was that medicine still worked on a system of patronage and word of mouth.

He told BBC News Online: "Bullying is illegal and virtually every trust in the country does have workplace policies to combat it.

"Any such behaviour by consultants is an absolute disgrace. If the BMA is approached it is willing to take it forward, and if necessary to name and shame."

Dr Pickersgill said the BMA had launched a fair treatment campaign to stamp out undue pressure placed on junior doctors in the workplace.

He said the association was particularly keen that juniors who were new to the NHS and worried about their careers should come forward. These doctors found it particularly difficult to speak out.

The BMA is particularly concerned that some junior doctors are facing pressure from their trusts to under-report the number of hours that they work so that hospitals can meet their targets.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

See also:

07 Apr 01 | Health
Young doctors 'burning out'
20 Dec 01 | Health
'Still too few doctors'
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