Cost of bullying in NHS England estimated at £2.28 billion

BULLYING and harassment in the NHS in England costs the UK taxpayer an estimated £2.28 billion per year according to a new study.

The research published in the journal Public Money and Management calculated the likely costs of bullying and harassment to the NHS in England by utilising a range of data sources related to sickness absence, employee turnover, diminished productivity, sickness "presenteeism" and employment relations.

Sickness absence as a result of bullying and harassment was found to cost the NHS £483.66 million in lost wages, with an additional cost of £302.2 in paying overtime and agency staff. The largest estimated cost was £604m due to ‘presenteeism’, which puts a price on the loss in performance of staff who come into work unwell owing to stress or other problems.

These combined with other estimated costs for staff turnover, lost productivity and the impact of bullying on industrial relations, compensation and litigation led to a total estimated figure of £2.28 billion. However, this excludes other costs which are difficult to predict, such as the impact on staff who witness bullying behaviour and reputational costs to the NHS as a “good employer”.

The researchers conclude: "Bullying and harassment are everyday features of many UK workplaces, with health and social care being the most prominent employment sector bedevilled by workplace ill-treatment.

"The most recent NHS England staff survey data for 2017 shows a stubborn 24 per cent rate of bullying by other staff (managers and colleagues), which has largely remained unchanged over the past three years. With the massive budgetary pressures facing the NHS, it is more relevant than ever to address the real costs of bullying, both moral and financial."

BMA representative body chair Anthea Mowat, who is leading a campaign to end bullying and harassment, said the figures showed the NHS could not afford not to take action. "We already know that many doctors are counting the personal cost of bullying and harassment at work. It’s not only harmful to staff, it’s damaging to patient care, as countless inquiries have found."

"These new figures put a conservative but considerable price on the financial costs to the NHS in England. At £2.3bn every year, it should be enough to make managers and health leaders sit up and take action."