An investigation by the British Medical Journal and the Guardian found that around 35,000 “sexual safety incidents” were recorded by NHS hospitals in England over the past five years.
The figures are more concerning as they are only half the picture. According to a Freedom of Information request made by the BMJ and the Guardian newspaper NHS trusts disclosed just 902 alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by staff against other staff in a five year period to 2023.
A survey done by Unison in 2019 fond that 8.1% of NHS staff had experienced sexual harassment at work during the past year.
Taking a very conservative estimate, Dr Sarah Steele, a senior researcher at Cambridge University said, given NHS England has more than 1 million staff, a higher number of reported cases would have been expected.
“Based on past self-reporting figures in surveys by health unions and others, we would expect more than 120,000 cases of sexual misconduct per year at NHS trusts in England where the victim is a staff member.”
This suggests the figures disclosed by the NHS trust are at least 100,000 alleged incidents short.
University of Cambridge research published this month shows only one NHS trust in England (out of 199) provides dedicated training to prevent sexual harassment.
Quoted in the British Medical Journal online
Steve Barclay, health secretary, said that the government has doubled the maximum sentence for those who are convicted of assaulting health workers like doctors and nurses. “NHS leaders have a statutory duty of care to look after their staff and patients and prevent harassment, abuse, or violence in the workplace. I expect employers to be proactive in ensuring staff and patients are fully supported, their concerns listened to and acted on with appropriate action taken where necessary,” he says.
Whether the figures are correct or not the evidence shows that the government and the NHS can do more to prevent sexual violence affecting both patients and staff in hospitals in England.