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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Medscape's UK Sexual Harassment of Doctors Report 2019 shows results from more than 1300 doctors in the UK. We asked respondents about specific harassment behaviour they have experienced or witnessed in the past 3 years, where it occurred, how they responded, and how it affected them. We also asked whether they had been accused of sexual harassment.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Under the UK's Equality Act, sexual harassment is either meant to, or has the effect of violating your dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Individuals have their own perceptions about what defines sexual harassment or abuse. To make sure that respondents were all on the same page about definitions, we asked about specific behaviours.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

In Medscape UK's report, 3% of doctors said they experienced some form of sexual harassment within the past 3 years, 4% witnessed incidents, and 1% were accused of sexual abuse, harassment, or misconduct. There's no official UK data on sexual harassment in healthcare. In June, a survey by the public service union UNISON found 8% (1 in 12) NHS staff members experienced sexual harassment at work. Our data also asked about incidents in the past 3 years, so experiences earlier in doctors' careers were not included. Among medical students, 5% experienced harassment, 15% witnessed harassment, and none were accused of harassment.

Respondents could choose more than one answer to several questions, so some totals may exceed 100%. Elsewhere, totals may not add up to 100% because of rounding. Demographics are given at the end of this slideshow.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

More female doctors than male doctors have experienced harassment. No women were accused of harassment, and slightly more women than men had witnessed incidents.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

The most common forms of sexual harassment experienced by UK doctors were infringement on body space and unwanted physical contact. Sexual comments, leering and unwanted attention were each cited by around a third of doctors. Around a third were harassed by a single perpetrator, while half were harassed by two to three individuals. Three-quarters of doctors who experienced harassment by a colleague or member of staff named another physician as a perpetrator. In 10% of cases a hospital nurse was cited. In 71% of cases, the harasser was male, and all female doctors cited a male as the perpetrator. Harassment was more common among doctors aged under 50 than older physicians.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Deliberate infringement of body space was mentioned as having the biggest impact on nearly a third of doctors who'd been harassed. That was followed by threats involving refusal of sexual favours, sexual propositions, and sexual comments or leering. The harassment caused substantial upset in the majority of cases. In 30% of cases, the experience significantly interfered with the doctor's ability to do their job.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

The most common forms of sexual harassment witnessed by UK doctors were infringement on body space, sexual comments or leering, and unwanted physical contact.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Harassment was more prevalent in some specialties, such as anaesthetics, general surgery, and plastic surgery, and lower incidence in others, including general practice, emergency medicine, and paediatrics. In 56% of all cases of doctors being harassed by colleagues, the perpetrator was in a superior position, an equal position for 24%, and a subordinate position for 20%.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Incidents took place both in locations accessible to staff only, and patient areas. Administrative areas, hospital wards, and corridors were commonly cited as settings for harassment.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Of doctors who had been harassed, 37% told the perpetrator to stop, and 20% told them how they felt about the incident. More than half (56%) did not report the incident. Of the 44% who did make a report to someone, colleagues were the most common choice, followed by supervisors or heads of departments.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Would you suspect someone you work with as having the potential to be a sex pest? Almost half of doctors had a positive impression of the perpetrator prior to their harassment incident. Following incidents, 95% of those harassed had to continue to interact with the person in order to do their job.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Around 25% to 30% either had thoughts about quitting their jobs, had less engagement with colleagues, and/or difficulty concentrating.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Around 40% of doctors adopted some negative behaviours to help cope with their harassment. Nearly a quarter isolated themselves, while others turned to binge eating, alcohol, or slept more.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Doctors in our survey reported only 16% of workplaces conduct mandatory harassment training. However, 28% of medical students received sexual harassment training. Only 22% of doctors were aware of workplace grievance procedures. Sexual harassment negatively impacts patient care quality, according to 81% of doctors. Less than half trust their workplace to have well trained and competent investigators. Successful or senior staff are likely to be granted greater leeway over inappropriate conduct, 43% said. However, most do not believe their workplace tacitly accepts sexual harassment.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

In our survey, more doctors said they'd been sexually harassed by patients (17%) than by other staff or colleagues (3%). As to the form of harassment by patients, acting in an overtly sexual manner was mentioned by more than half. Requests for dates and attempts to touch the doctors were also common.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Gender had a marked difference on the type and amount of harassment by patients experienced by doctors. Female doctors more often encountered overtly sexual behaviour, being asked out on a date, and attempts at physical contact, than male doctors.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Levels of harassment experienced by doctors varied by specialty, with general surgery, psychiatry, emergency medicine, and general practice most at risk.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Of doctors experiencing harassment by patients, the response was typically to ask the patient to stop, and/or make sure they were no longer alone with the patient. Few dismissed patients from their practice or accepted advances.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

Our survey was also answered by 881 nurses, and of these 1 in 20 (5%) experienced sexual harassment in the past 3 years. Slightly more male nurses (7%) experienced incidents than female nurses (5%). Slightly more male (9%) than female (7%) nurses witnessed harassment. One percent of all nurses were accused of sexual abuse, harassment, or misconduct.

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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Sexual Harassment of UK Doctors: Report 2019

Tim Locke, Dr Rob Hicks | October 1, 2019 | Contributor Information

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