An online toolkit aimed at tackling bullying among midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals has been launched, including a recommendation for organisations to set up a multidisciplinary team to oversee improvements to their working culture.
Developed by the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Undermining Toolkit has been designed to address undermining and bullying behaviour in maternity and gynaecology services in particular.
It follows previous RCM surveys, in which 43% of students and fully qualified midwives reported they had experienced bullying and harassment from a colleague.
While there was “limited published evidence” about why poor behaviour was more common in maternity and gynaecology services, the colleges suggested there were contributing factors in these departments such as often being “high stress”, which was made worse by variable clinical supervision.
“Don’t try to be superhuman – highlight excessive workloads and staff shortages”
The free Undermining Toolkit looks at four areas of intervention – at strategic, trust and departmental levels and also for individuals who may be the victims or perpetrators of bullying behaviour.
It suggests that – at a departmental level – a group to champion culture change should be created, comprising interested consultants, the labour ward midwifery and obstetric lead, several band 7 midwives, junior and senior trainee representatives, and a department manager.
Alongside this, it is “critical” that the trust develops a zero tolerance policy towards bullying throughout the organisation, states the toolkit.
It adds that work-related stress – and also non work-related stress if it impacts on professional behaviour – should be addressed but “cannot be used to justify continuing poor behaviour”.
To avoid accusations of undermining and bullying, the toolkit advises individual staff to use a range of strategies, including speaking up when they are overworked.
Bullying not only affects the individual concerned, it can also impact on their ability to deliver the best possible care”
“Don’t try to be superhuman – highlight excessive workloads and staff shortages so something can be done about them,” the toolkit added.
As well as methods for prevention – such as taking part in workshops that raise awareness around bullying – the resource contains information to help staff identify if they are being bullied and what to do if they have been accused of this behaviour.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick highlighted that bullying affects patients as well as staff – because it can impact on the level of care provided.
She said: “There is a real need to ensure that inappropriate behaviours within the NHS are addressed quickly, efficiently and in the right way. Ideally they would not happen in the first place and this toolkit can help to stop it occurring.
“Also, bullying and undermining behaviour not only affects the individual concerned, it can also have an impact on their ability to deliver the best possible care to people using NHS services,” she said.
“This is why this toolkit is so important and we hope that trusts will use it, so that behaviours such as this are prevented or stopped, allowing staff to concentrate their energies on providing care,” she added.