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RCEM reinforces commitment to eliminate bullying, harassment and discrimination for members

03 January 2024

The Royal College of Emergency medicine has reinforced its commitment to see the detrimental and damaging cultures present in some Emergency Departments which negatively affect its members eradicated; and has launched a new review to support this aim.

A working group will begin in the coming weeks which will make recommendations for leaders and the NHS overall which will be aimed at tackling and eliminating discriminatory behaviours. It will also focus on prevention.

The GMC published its annual National Training Survey 2023 in July 2023 which was completed by more than 70,000 doctors.

It highlighted that doctors in the early stages of their careers are experiencing more negative behaviours than their senior colleagues. Examples include being blamed for something they didn’t do, being intentionally humiliated, micro-aggressions, negative comments and oppressive body language.

Two out of three respondents also described moderate or high risk of burnout – the highest since records began in 2018.

Emergency Medicine is one specialty where these negative experiences are more common, and the survey provides further evidence that many postgraduate doctors training in EM (previously referred to as junior doctors) in the UK are doing so in very challenging circumstances.

The GMC report also found that EM trainee are:

  • less likely to agree that their training provides opportunities to develop their leadership skills than postgraduate doctors training in other specialties
  • more likely to report experience of negative or discriminatory behaviours than postgraduate doctors training in other specialties
  • at greater risk of burnout than postgraduate doctors training in other specialties.

RCEM will examine these issues in greater depth and will make recommendations addressing how cultures within emergency departments can be improved.

The College will aim to cover civility and harassment in all forms, recognising that it has a role in prevention but also in supporting members to call out inappropriate behaviours.

And that every single person in a leadership position in any specialty team has duty to act, to prevent cultures which allow poor behaviours to grow.

Both of which are covered in the GMC’s updated version of Good Medical Practice which comes into effect in 30 January 2024.

The College previously launched a RespectED campaign and will be reviewing that as part of the work.

The GMC 2023 Survey Report makes three key recommendations which focus on addressing local barriers that adversely affect training, zero tolerance to discriminatory or bullying behaviours and fostering compassionate workplace cultures that empower and support all doctors.

The GMC states it recognises the need to prioritise the cultivation of a “compassionate culture in every workplace both in the interests of patients and the wellbeing and retention of the doctors who care for them”.

The issue of sexual misconduct in other medical specialties was also highlighted by the findings of the Sexual Misconduct in Surgery Survey published in September 2023 by the British Journal of Surgery.

The research revealed the extent of sexual misconduct including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape – within the UK surgical workforce in the past five years.

RCEM’s own Psychologically Informed Policy and Practice Development (PIPP) project makes recommendations which support these findings.

The College also fully supports the ‘Surviving in Scrubs’ campaign which aims to give a voice to women and non-binary survivors in healthcare to raise awareness; and to end sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in healthcare.

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