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Calls for chief nurses to help tackle 'shameful' NHS bullying stats

  • 34 Comments

“Shameful” statistics that show around 25% of staff in the NHS are bullied must be addressed through a “cultural revolution” of the health service, nursing directors have been told.

Speaking as part of a panel debate at the chief nursing officer for England’s summit on Tuesday, workforce experts also noted that only around two thirds of NHS workers had said their concerns would be acted upon by managers.

They said the data – reported by professionals themselves through the annual NHS staff survey – revealed more needed to be done by nursing and other managers to support staff.

“[We need to] address two things in the [annual NHS] survey which are shameful. The first is that a quarter of staff say they are bullied”

Rob Webster

Particular attention should be paid to marginal groups – such as black and minority ethnic (BME) staff, temporary workers and students – that were more at risk of these issues, said Jocelyn Cornwell, chief executive of charity the Point of Care Foundation.

Ms Cornwell referred to the nationwide whistleblowing investigation helmed by Sir Robert Francis, which earlier this year highlighted these particular groups as being more worried about speaking out when they have concerns.

“I think that is a worry because we know there are large numbers of BME staff in key patient-facing roles, so it’s incredibly important they feel confident about speaking up and feel listened to in a good way when they do so,” she said.

Ms Cornwell said the health service had become “habituated” to reports of bullying in the annual staff survey, and claimed the “broader” problem was high stress levels.

“We know that nursing is very high stress work, high demand and associated with a sense you don’t have control”

Jocelyn Cornwell

“In the NHS, 28% of people report work related stress. In the general population it is closer to 18%. We know that nursing is very high stress work, high demand and associated in many environments with a sense you don’t have control,” she added.

She told senior nurses that, as leaders, they had an important role in creating work environments that tackled such problems by supporting staff to feel empowered.

Rob Webster

Rob Webster

Rob Webster

Speaking as part of the same panel debate, Rob Wester, chief executive of NHS Confederation – which represents NHS organisations – said: “[We need to] address two things in the [annual NHS] survey, which are shameful.

“The first is that a quarter of staff say they are bullied and that only two thirds of staff say they are confident somebody will act upon their concerns if they are raised,” he said.

Mr Webster suggested a “cultural revolution” was needed, because the NHS “wasted the assets of staff and of patients every single day”.

  • 34 Comments

Readers' comments (34)

  • If the NHS doesn't want bullies then why do they keep promoting them? As for rank issues, the worse they are the higher they go. One CEO of a successful high profile MH trust is a notorious bully.

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  • the biggest bully of all is at the helm of the NHS

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  • the biggest bully of all is at the helm of the NHS

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  • I worked as a Band 6 sister in a specialist unit, and ended up having a nervous breakdown due to the bullying treatment I received from band 5 staff nurses who were put out because I came from outside the trust and got the job. My band 7 manager and band 8a matron were very unsupportive and dismissed their disgusting behaviour as them being "strong characters " in the end I couldn't take it anymore and went off sick for 6 months after needing hospital treatment for my depression and anxiety. I down graded to a Band 5 post and luckily am now very supported but am now a shadow of my former self and rebuilding my confidence from scratch. It sickens me that they got away with their conduct.

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  • it tedious this new nt format if you have to sign in to every page you visit.

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  • I also experienced bullying at the hands of senior NHS managers which left me with a long term health condition and a great sadness at having to leave a job I loved. I have rebuilt my life and my confidence and self esteem are restored. I have been a clinical supervisor for many years and have seen those who raise concerns harassed and bullied till their health is affected and they leave the profession.

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  • I found that I was bullied as I got older and slowed down my work pace - I just couldn't work at the pace they wanted as I had COPD. I was a B6 and was constantly told that I'd be 'better as a B5'. I told my manager who was no help at all and even suggested that I apologise (!) to the B7s who were bullying me and ...her words -'ingratiate myself with them'.
    The atmosphere was such that I could see a NMC referral coming my way such was the checking they did on my work/record keeping etc.
    I knew that the slightest slip-up I made would be fantastic for them. Paranoid? You bet ya!!!

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  • I have been spoken to like dirt, laughed at and laughed about, lied about, talked about behind my back, reported when I said 'no'. I took 6 months off sick due to stress, anxiety and from being a confident, strong woman, became someone who couldn't even decide what bread to buy. My job? Nurse Manager in a private company. The bullies? Staff Nurses. Bullying is not the sole prerogative of managers; my life and other managers I have spoken to has been made utterly miserable by staff who felt they had the right to everything they asked for and became abusive if they were denied. Be too assertive and you face a grievance or worse; be too lenient and you face criticism for not being assertive enough. I was a good manager and now I would never, ever enter management again. I am now a staff nurse and have never been happier.

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  • I'm sure not all but don't be surprised when senior nurses whether aware or otherwise indirectly or directly reward less senior nurses for bullying and harassment. I think we are coming to a time where front-line staff are becoming less tolerant and so they should. And as for Unions don't make me laugh - does anyone think Unions will fork out? Surely nurses would be better paying a yearly subscription to an employment lawyer inclusive of indemnity insurance.

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  • michael stone

    Hi 'ANONYMOUS 3 DECEMBER, 2015 3:39 PM'

    You should not be 'called stupid' just because you don't know everything - you won't 'know everything' even after you qualify.

    Although there will be things, which you should know - so 'you should know this by now' is a reasonable comment, provided it is true (in other words, if the person making the comment, is aware that you have been trained/taught the stuff).

    There should have been a more extensive development of the 'Local Guardian' role - that is the role/concept, which if done properly, has the best chance of sorting out the 'bullied for raising a sensible concern, which is inconvenient for management' issue. Sorting out 'bullying because I/we don't like you' is trickier.

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