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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
'My fellow doctors bullied me'
By Ray Dunne
BBC News Online health staff

One in four juniors say they have been bullied
Matilda McLoughlin has spent years training to become a doctor.

Like the rest of her colleagues in the medical profession, she has had to study and pass countless exams to get to where she is today.

In theory, she should now be in the final stages of her training and preparing to become a consultant.

In reality, the 33-year-old is considering giving up her career and leaving the NHS.

'Culture of bullying'

Her reason: she is simply no longer willing or able to put up with the bullying from senior doctors, which has dogged her life since she first donned the white coat.

This time last year, Matilda was working as a specialist registrar in anaesthesia at a hospital in north-west England.

I was routinely humiliated in front of other doctors and sometimes even in front of patients. I was not alone

Within a few weeks she had left her job, had been diagnosed as clinically depressed and was taking anti-depressants.

"I was subjected to insidious bullying by a senior medical colleague," she says.

The memories are still raw. Matilda is clearly struggling to contain her emotions as she relays the events that led her to leave her job.

"It was a very difficult and stressful time," she says. "I was under an enormous amount of pressure.

"It affected my mental health. I had to go off sick. I was suffering from depression. I didn't work for four months and I was on anti-depressants."

Matilda says the bullying started when she failed to deliver on what she says was an unrealistic demand.

'Chastised and humiliated'

She is reluctant to go into the precise details, not least because she is considering taking action against the individual and hospital involved.

But she says: "I was asked to achieve the impossible and when I didn't deliver, I was chastised and humiliated."

There have been times when I have been considering whether I should leave medicine altogether.

Matilda says she has been bullied by senior medical colleagues throughout her career.

"It was there from the very start," she says.

"There is a culture of bullying in the NHS and junior doctors are in a very difficult position.

"I was routinely humiliated in front of other doctors and sometimes even in front of patients. I was not alone.

"It is routine but very few people are prepared to do anything about it."

Certainly, Matilda's experiences are not unique. Thousands of junior doctors are regularly bullied in British hospitals.

Figures published last year, suggests it affects one in four trainees.

However, Matilda is rather unique in that she is prepared to speak out.

The vast majority of junior doctors appear willing to accept bullying as a part of their professional lives.

Few raise their heads above the parapet to blow the whistle on their bosses.

The fact is that, by doing so, they risk blowing the whistle on their medical careers.

It is a risk Matilda is willing to take.

"I know I am taking a risk. I don't know how this will affect my career. But I think someone has to speak out. People are too afraid to speak out."

One year on, Matilda is still struggling to get her career back on track.

"I am now only working part-time. I am still not back in training," she says.

"I don't know what the future holds. There have been times when I have been considering whether I should leave medicine altogether. I don't know, maybe I will."

The British Medical Association launched a campaign last year to stamp out bullying in the NHS.

Its success or otherwise is dependent on people like Matilda speaking out and trusts and other institutions taking action against those found guilty of bullying staff.

Many junior doctors bullied
11 Apr 02  |  Health
Young doctors 'burning out'
07 Apr 01  |  Health

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