RCSEd and National Guardian for the NHS address bullying throughout the NHS

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28 Sep 2018

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, together with the National Guardian for the NHS this week (26 September) hosted an inaugural meeting of organisations from across healthcare engaged in addressing the unacceptably high levels of undermining and bullying throughout the NHS.


The NHS staff survey reported a quarter of employees in trusts and Foundation Trusts in England were subject to bullying and undermining last year, with devastating consequences for both staff morale and patient outcomes. This is also borne out by published data that shows that 45% of cases dealt with by freedom to speak up guardians involve bullying and harassment.The widespread scale of the problem, as well as the complex cultural, behavioural and systemic issues behind it, mean that it can only be tackled through a persistent, multi-layered approach. 

Therefore, participants agreed to form a collaborative alliance to coordinate activity, share best practice and develop resources on an ongoing basis. Dr Henrietta Hughes, National Guardian, Freedom to Speak Up, said,

“The evidence shows that civility saves lives and that the freedom to speak up is a characteristic of the best organisations. We are acutely aware of the need urgently to redress the unacceptable levels of undermining and bullying to improve patient outcomes and the working lives of NHS staff. We realise that no one single initiative can do this.

We also realise that change will only come through long term and sustained interventions to support all workers in the NHS. Yesterday’s meeting was the beginning of this process and one we want to broaden to include as many organisations and initiatives as possible.”

Miss Alice Hartley, Chair of #letsremoveit, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh’s campaign on undermining and bullying, said,

“We are extremely grateful that such a broad section of organisations showed a real willingness to work collectively on this issue and build on the excellent work that is already in place. More can always be done, so we would extend an open invitation to Royal Colleges, trade unions, regulators, system leaders and any NHS organisation across the four nations of the U.K. to join us to create an alliance for change.”


Those participating in the meeting included:

  • Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
  • Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland
  • Association of Breast Surgery
  • British Medical Associations
  • Civility Saves Lives
  • Department for Health and Social Care
  • General Medical Council
  • National Guardian, Freedom to Speak Up
  • NHS Improvement
  • Point of Care Foundation
  • The Royal College of Anaesthetists
  • Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • The Royal College of Midwives
  • Royal College of Nursing
  • Royal College of Physicians of London
  • The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
  • Scottish Government


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