NHS: Bullying

House of Lords written question – answered on 28th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Sub-Committee C - Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy

To ask Her Majesty's Government what studies they are currently undertaking to determine the level of bullying of staff that takes place within the National Health Service.

To ask Her Majesty's Government what statistics they currently collect on bullying of staff in the National Health Service.

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to reduce bullying in the National Health Service.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

Data on staff experience of bullying, harassment and abuse is gathered via the annual National Health Service staff survey. The 2011 NHS staff survey was published on 20 March 2012 and involved more than 250,000 staff across all NHS trusts and social enterprises of which around 135,000 or 54% responded. The 2011 NHS staff survey found that 15% of NHS staff experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives and the public and that 15% experienced harassment, bullying and abuse from other staff in 2011, the same as in 2010.

There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in the NHS. It contradicts the basic value of equity that is the cornerstone of the NHS. The NHS has taken strong steps to eliminate bullying and harassment in the workplace and the NHS constitution reinforces the need for continued action from NHS organisations.

The Social Partnership Forum has recognised tackling bullying and harassment as a priority for partnership working at national, regional and local level.

NHS Employers also produces a range of guidance and advice for the NHS since it was founded in 2005 and has run a very successful anti-bullying campaign across the NHS in England. NHS Employers' advice stresses that bullying by patients, their relatives or by colleagues is unacceptable and should be dealt with immediately. It also advocates a number of ways in which this problem may be dealt with.

A range of support services are currently provided by NHS organisations for their employees. These vary between organisations but include:

counselling-the NHS has provided counselling services to NHS staff since April 2000. Counselling often allows the concerns about bullying to be resolved without the need to take formal action;trained staff acting as support workers-as part of their role they provide empathetic assistance to employees with complaints of bullying and harassment, explain how the procedures for making a complaint operate both informally and formally, and help establish and provide support for both alleged harassers and complainants through the process;bullying and harassment hotline-hotlines provide staff with a confidential service to discuss their problems and access support;external agencies-employees may be referred to external agencies for support where the employer feels that they are not adequately equipped to provide support; andmediation-mediators are specially trained to facilitate informal outcomes where possible. Both parties must agree to the use of a mediator.

It is also important to note that evidence suggests that bullying is one indicator that is expected to rise in times of volatility such as re-organisation and change. In this respect, it is important to note that despite several years of change in the service the level of reported bullying reported in the NHS staff survey this year has seen very little change since that in 2008.

As a minimum, all NHS organisations should have in place bullying and harassment policies and procedures that are easily accessible to staff and managers alike, and provide support for employees which is monitored on a regular basis by senior managers.

The department is not presently undertaking any studies specifically aimed at bullying.

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