RCSEd responds to report on bullying, undermining, discrimination, and sexual misconduct in surgery and across the NHS

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11 Apr 2023

This report in The Times highlights the harassment and sexist abuse faced by women in surgery and the unacceptable workplace culture of bullying, undermining, discrimination, and sexual misconduct that is endemic in surgery and throughout the NHS.

On behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, we would like to apologise to all those who have experienced discrimination and abuse at work.

We recognise that victims of this behaviour often feel isolated and unable to raise concerns due to fear of further recrimination and the lack of visible sanctions against perpetrators.

We know that this problem must be tackled, so together with the other UK Royal Surgical Colleges, we have been working with the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery (WPSMS) on a survey which will collect information to document the extent of these issues throughout the surgical profession in the UK. The results are still pending, but we already know that over 50% of surgeons, mainly women, have experienced some form of sexual harassment whilst at work. This is unacceptable. 

A meeting of the WPSM, the Royal Colleges, The GMC, NHS employers and representatives of the statuary education bodies is set to take place imminently to discuss the outcome of the survey and to look at the ways in which we can support victims through improved confidential reporting systems and clear disciplinary procedures for offenders.

We recognise that this will address only a small part of the much wider issue of dealing with the poor working conditions faced by trainees and members of the wider surgical team in the NHS, so we will continue to work with our members, regulators, NHS and education agencies to make the workplace a safe and supportive environment for all.

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