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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 23:21 GMT 00:21 UK
'Targets' triggering NHS bullying
Rushing juniors
Bullying can be an 'initiation rite' for new doctors
The "target ethos" in the NHS is adding to a "survival of the fittest" culture where bullying is common, doctors leaders have warned.

The British Medical Association says one in seven NHS workers has been bullied by colleagues.

The organisation is calling for "zero tolerance" of bullying in the NHS.

The body representing NHS employers said bullying was a problem which needed to be stamped out, and which was being addressed.

The cycle of bullying in medicine has to stop
Dr Sam Everington, British Medical Association Deputy Chairman

Medical students and doctors in training say they are often subjected to bullying as part of an "initiation rite" into medicine.

A recent BMA survey of medical students found one in four said they had been bullied by other doctors, while 16% had been bullied by nurses.

Staff grade doctors, associate specialist doctors and staff from overseas were particularly vulnerable to workplace bullying and harassment, the BMA said.

The most common forms of bullying included attempts to belittle and undermine work, withholding necessary information, removing areas of responsibility without consultation and setting impossible deadlines.

It says reports of incidents are increasing, perhaps because people are less prepared to tolerate such pressures than they used to be.

The BMA adds that one on four staff have been bullied or harassed by patients and their relatives.

'Survival of the fittest' culture

The BMA is calling for all NHS organisations and medical schools to have policies for dealing with bullying and harassment at work, and support for those affected.

It is also urging people who are aware that others are being bullied or harassed should feel empowered to challenge the situation or report it to a senior colleague.

Dr Sam Everington, Deputy Chairman of the BMA, said: "The cycle of bullying in medicine has to stop.

Tackling this problem is at the top of our agenda
Alastair Henderson, NHS Employers

"It's not good enough for a senior doctor to think that he or she had a hard time and was humiliated as medical student so it's justified for them to dole out the same treatment.

"It's not just students and juniors who are bullied.

"Consultants can be bullied by their peers and by managers.

"The highly pressurised target ethos in the health service only adds to the survival of the fittest culture where bullying is often seen as a way of motivating staff."

Dr Everington added: "Turning the tide of bullying in the NHS will not only be good for staff but also employers because stressed health professionals end up taking more time of work and will be more likely to leave the health service.

"It makes economic sense to tackle this problem."

Workplace bullying also has an impact on the people the NHS treats, Dr Everington said.

It has been estimated that that workplace bullying affects up to 50% of the UK people workforce at some time in their working lives and costs employers 80 million lost working days and up to 2 million in lost revenue each year.

Alastair Henderson, deputy director of NHS Employers said bullying and harassment was a recognised problem in the NHS but that the situation was improving.

He added: "The BMA is right that bullying has to stop. As the largest employer in the UK, it is vital that the NHS has a culture where any form of bullying and harassment is not tolerated.

"This is a concern across all staff groups. Tackling this problem is at the top of our agenda."

Mr Henderson said guidance had recently been issued to encourage employers to put in place anti-bullying policies, and that the organisation was also working with individual trusts at local level.

NHS anti-bullying culture ordered
12 Jan 06 |  Southern Counties
'My fellow doctors bullied me'
09 Jun 03 |  Health

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