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RCEM launches anti-bullying campaign to challenge toxic behaviour in Emergency Departments

27 October 2021

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is launching RespectED, an anti-bullying campaign that aims to raise awareness and tackle the rise in toxic behaviours such as bullying, harassment and incivility between staff in Emergency Departments (EDs). These negative behaviours have a huge impact in EDs; they can create a toxic working environment, affect morale and the delivery of safe patient care.

The RespectED campaign is being launched to acknowledge that bullying, harassment and incivility occur in Emergency Departments. It encourages staff to address their own behaviours, to speak up and challenge these behaviours if they witness or are targeted by them and to positively change Emergency Departments and their cultures.

As pressures once again mount on the NHS it is vital that negative and toxic behaviours are challenged, and staff are supported by their colleagues and peers.

Jayne Hidderley, Chair of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine Lay Group, said:

“We know when incivility and bullying take place in our Emergency Departments, it not only has a detrimental effect on all staff but is a serious risk to patient safety. Our RespectED campaign, in collaboration with Civility Saves Lives, is a call to action to raise awareness amongst our staff and start the conversation. We want all staff in our Emergency Departments to be equipped to speak up, challenge these behaviours and change the culture together.”

Mrs Lisa Munro-Davies, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“The College is launching RespectED, an anti-bullying campaign to raise awareness of bullying, harassment and incivility between staff in Emergency Departments. The campaign aims to support all those in speaking out if made to feel uneasy or uncomfortable by other people’s behaviour in the workplace. The campaign also aims to empower each and every one of us to be impactful allies for others when needed.

“Bullying is so much more than arguments and rudeness; it is much more subtle than that. Bullying can include excluding and ignoring people and their contribution; overloading people with work; spreading malicious rumours; unwarranted differential treatment; regularly undermining someone; and denying someone training or other opportunities. It is incredibly harmful and will not be tolerated.

“Bullying can make people’s lives miserable, for some it makes their lives intolerable and can cause individuals to lose all faith in themselves and may even make them feel ill or depressed. Bullies can act alone and directly, or they can act via others through a ‘gang’ mentality and toxic group-think environments they aim to create in the workplace.

“Sadly, bullying, harassment and incivility are occurring in Emergency Departments every day. We must challenge these behaviours when we witness them or are subjected to them. These malicious practices cause huge damage to staff, and present real risks to patient care. We are all responsible, we are all accountable, we must all act to resolve this, and we must all act to restore respect in our Emergency Departments.”

Dr Chris Turner, Founder of Civility Saves Lives, said:

“We know that performance dips when we are under excessive stress and few environments in healthcare are more stressful than the Emergency Department. It’s fantastic that the Royal College have recognised this, and we have great hopes that the RespectED campaign will help lead to a more mutually supportive workplace, to the benefit of patients and staff.”

Dr Kirsty Challen, Chair of the Women in Emergency Medicine Special Interest Group (WEMSIG), said:

“WEMSIG are pleased to support the College’s RespectED campaign. We know that our female members and fellows frequently experience demeaning behaviour, from being talked over to ignored to overtly sexual “banter”. This behaviour is unacceptable and demeaning. We welcome the College’s efforts to call it out.”

Dr Dan Darbyshire, Chair of the Emergency Medicine Trainees Association (EMTA), said:

“The last three EMTA surveys have shown consistently the extent of bullying, harassment and incivility in Emergency Departments. The RespectED campaign is the difficult first step in starting to address this and I applaud the College for making this a priority.”

Olivia Wilson, Chair of the Advanced Clinical Practitioners (ACP) Forum, said:

“The RespectED campaign reminds us all to focus on team-working and to keep the patient central to all we do. It’s time to challenge these appalling behaviours that have a negative effect on our staff and our patients. It’s time for change – RespectED!”

Dr David Chung and Dr Hodon Abdi, co-chairs of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“Ethnic Minority, LGBTQ+, and Disabled staff in the NHS are often all too familiar with behaviours which impact on them, such as micro-aggressions, being undermined and many other toxic behaviours which can be described as bullying.

“We all need to work hard to make our ED a place of psychological safety, to enable the best environment for both staff and patients alike. Our aim is for EM to be the most inclusive specialty, and this campaign can only help achieve that aim.”

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