Can Do Health & Care - NHS Uncomfortable Truths Report

20 | ICS System Learning: Uncomfortable Truths Fiona: To prepare for this discussion I spoke to some survivors of sexual assault in the workplace. Firstly, they said, we are not allowed to talk about it, and when we do, nothing is done. Secondly, they said, I don’t feel safe going to work psychologically, physically, sexually. Thirdly, they said it was almost an expectation that it would happen at some point. This is just not good enough. “We are so slow to respond to this issue. Why has it been necessary for the NHS to launch a sexual safety charter, in 2023?” And this charter has only happened on the back of a damning research report. Kneejerk responses have got to stop. When sexual offences happen in the workplace the person who experiences them can seldom move from the environment in which this took place. Lots of people who survive abuse in the home can remove themselves from their abuser, but many survivors of sexual violence in the workplace have to see the person or people who abused them, or the people who didn’t listen to them, or the people who further traumatised them, every single day. We make it very difficult for them not to be in that environment. I do not think we treat sexual violence in the workplace in the context of the law, we process it in the context of HR, or the optics of our organisation’s reputation to the rest of the world. These offences often start as unchallenged infringements of people’s personal space, and quite often they progress into an overt criminal activity which is never addressed through the law. “We have got to start looking at sexual offences in the workplace as infringements of the law.” Tanvir: I am a former surgeon, and that world is unfortunately a male bastion with the women there often seen as trophies. The conversations in the changing room are about cricket and sex. There is a big cultural problem, and so many talented female surgeons have chosen alternative career paths because of this, which is a loss to the system forever. We need a sense of urgency. The Royal Colleges have accepted their culpability in this but we need to see action. Someone, somewhere is probably being abused as we speak, and that is the ultimate tragedy. Comments Ruth Bushaway, Medical Director, Suffolk GP Federation: Our organisation carried out a review to find out how we can be more inclusive. We had some good results, but some staff feel ‘othered’, and staff felt leaders are detached and don’t listen. This means that they don’t speak to me in the way they could, and I don’t hear their truths. I can only change what is in my sphere of influence, but I won’t be stopping.