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ss triple helix - spring 2017,  Bullying and NHS culture

Bullying and NHS culture

How we challenge it

It seems hard to credit that an organisation whose primary focus is the care of the sick should have an appalling reputation for bullying and intimidation of staff. However multiple surveys (1) of NHS staff show that at least 25-30% of respondents reported experiencing bullying from colleagues and managers at some point. Ten percent say that they have experienced discrimination in the workplace, and that figure doubles for black and ethnic minority staff members, and nearly as high for disabled employees.

Alarmingly, in a recent survey, over half of those who had experienced bullying reported that they felt it had been because they had raised concerns about care standards, patients' safety or had stood up for colleagues facing discrimination. (2)

Sometimes it may be the culture of a team that singles out those who don't fit in. This is particularly true where a culture of 'getting by' has developed because of staff 'burnout'. Any staff member who seeks to give their best shows everyone else up and becomes an obvious target. Ironically, those who seek to raise standards can find themselves accused of bullying.

Furthermore, the fact that so many colleagues just won't back up or support the bullied individual for fear of becoming a target exacerbates the situation. The culture of fear and intimidation leaves many of those facing bullying isolated and even ostracised by their colleagues. Bullying can be as much a sin of omission as one of commission.
Up to a third of those experiencing bullying have been forced to leave their jobs. (3) There is a strong correlation between bullying or 'disruptive behaviours' and the occurrence of adverse events and compromises in patient safety. (4)

Workplace culture plays a big part in shaping us as professionals - but culture is not static. It is not just managers who shape the culture, we all have a role.

Christians are meant to be salt and light (5) in our workplaces; challenging bullying culture, caring for those on the receiving end, leading by example.

We need to be caring for ourselves physically and spiritually, particularly finding others to pray with us and support us, either in our churches or with other Christians in our workplaces. We need also to find and work with like-minded colleagues (not just Christians) who share a common concern to create a better working environment.

Review by Steve Fouch CMF Head of Nursing

  1. NHS Staff Survey 2016. March 2017 and NHS Staff Survey 2015. February 2016
  2. Johnson S. NHS staff lay bare a bullying culture. The Guardian 26 October 2016
  3. Ibid
  4. Rosenstein AH. The Quality and Economic Impact of Disruptive Behaviors on Clinical Outcomes of Patient Care. American Journal of Medical Quality 21 April 2011
  5. Matthew 5:13-16
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