Shropshire Star

Average of one sexual harassment incident a day at Shrewsbury or Telford hospitals last year

Staff at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital experienced hundreds of sexual harassment incidents last year, new survey figures suggest.

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Staff at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital experienced hundreds of sexual harassment incidents last year, new survey figures suggest. Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

For the first time, the NHS Staff Survey – an annual poll of all NHS staff with more than 600,000 responses – asked workers if they had been the target of unwanted sexual behaviour in the previous 12 months, which includes inappropriate language, sexual jokes or assault.

The survey showed that 6.8 per cent of 3,396 respondents at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said they experienced at least one incident of unwanted sexual behaviour by a member of the public in 2023.

Meanwhile, a further 3.9 per cent of 3,379 staff said a colleague or other staff had behaved in an undesired sexual manner towards them on at least one occasion.

It means there were at least 364 incidents of sexual harassment towards staff at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital last year.

The terrifying statistic is below the national rate. Across England, 8.7 per cent of staff said they experienced unwanted sexual behaviour from a member of the public, and 3.8 per cent for fellow staff members.

Dr Emma Runswick, deputy chair of the British Medical Association council, said the survey portrays a "distressingly grim reality of healthcare professionals' experiences".

Dr Runswick praised the inclusion of unwanted sexual behaviour statistics for the first time, but added the figures are "deeply troubling and utterly unacceptable, underscoring the urgent need to incorporate third-party harassment into any measures aimed at safeguarding staff from sexual harassment".

The figures showed ambulance staff experienced the highest rate of sexual harassment from both the public and other staff members last year.

Dr Navina Evans, chief workforce, training and education officer at NHS England, said: "It is very distressing that more than 58,000 NHS staff reported experiencing unwanted sexual behaviour from the public last year and such conduct should not be tolerated in the NHS.

"That is why the NHS launched its first ever sexual safety charter last year which provides clear commitments to improve reporting on unacceptable behaviour, as well as appointing more than 300 domestic abuse and sexual violence leads who will review and improve trust policies for reporting of sexual harassment."

The survey also revealed higher rates of bullying and discrimination against ethnic minorities than white staff. Across the country, 28.6 per cent reported suffering harassment, abuse or bullying from the public, compared to 24.7 per cent of white people.

It suggests an ethnic minority member of staff is 16 per cent more likely to experience bullying from a member of the public than a white staff member.

At Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital, 24 per cent of ethnic minorities reported suffering harassment from a patient – 17 per cent more than their white colleagues.

The trust which manages both Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH), has been in special measures for several years.

The survey results confirm the trust remains below the national average in a number of key areas – but has improved in nearly all of those categories in the past 12 months.

Rhia Boyode, director of people and organisational development at SaTH, said the trust was aware that the results place the trust below the national average for a number of important areas, but that it had taken heart from the improvement in key sections.

Ms Boyode said that the trust is three years into a five-year plan to tackle the issues – adding that it was "on track" and "where we expected to be".