Poor leadership encourages bullying, survey shows

  • Date: 13 March 2015

POOR leadership and overworked senior doctors can increase incidents of bullying among trainees, according to a new survey by the General Medical Council.

Being caught in the middle of arguments caused by a lack of leadership or cohesion among seniors was cited as a key contributor to junior staff feeling bullied or undermined.

Senior doctors who were too busy to focus on training junior colleagues and difficulties in raising concerns were also named as key factors in allowing bullying behaviour to take place.

Trainees also cited feeling undervalued by employers after being overlooked or criticised for their work or lack of knowledge.

The GMC surveyed trainee doctors, senior doctors, management teams and medical education directors at 12 UK hospitals. There was a particular focus on obstetrics and gynaecology and surgery as these specialties were identified as having the most issues with bullying and undermining.

The sites were chosen because concerns had previously been raised about working practices there, and also due to their size, type and geographic location.

Some senior doctors interviewed said they were “shocked” to hear that bullying and undermining was happening at their hospital. The regulator reported that senior doctors and managers at “nearly all the hospitals visited” said they were “saddened by the findings and wanted to make sure such behaviour did not take place in future.”

The GMC report also highlights examples of good practice, where trainee doctors feel valued and supported and where there is strong, effective clinical and senior leadership. Other positives include appropriate time and resources being given to training and strong communication with trainees.

GMC Council chair Professor Terence Stephenson said: “Bullying and undermining have no place in medical education and training and we are working on a range of fronts to tackle the problem.

“Having been on the frontline of medicine working alongside doctors in training, I am all too aware that this issue is not only bad for doctors, but also for patient safety.”

Each hospital surveyed by the GMC has been given a report highlighting good and bad practice along with recommendations for improvement. Any hospitals requiring improvement will be monitored by the regulator.

Read the full GMC report at http://www.gmc-uk.org/education/24900.asp

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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