MORE than 35,000 sexual safety incidents were reported to NHS trusts in England between 2017 and 2022, with 62 per cent affecting staff.
This is a key finding of an investigation by the BMJ and the Guardian newspaper, which contends that trusts are failing to protect staff and patients.
Investigators sent freedom of information (FOI) requests to every hospital trust and police force in England for data on the number of reported sexual safety incidents recorded on NHS premises. The term covered a spectrum of behaviours from abusive remarks to rape.
They reported that at least 20 per cent of incidents involved rape, sexual assault, or kissing or touching that a person did not consent to (not all trusts provided a breakdown of the type of incidents). Other cases included sexual harassment, stalking, and abusive or degrading remarks. The data revealed that patients were the main perpetrators of abuse in hospitals, with 58 per cent of incidents involved patients abusing staff and 20 per cent involving patients abusing other patients.
The investigators also asked for details on trust policies on the management and prevention of such incidents. Less than one in 10 of the 212 trusts were found to have a dedicated policy to deal with sexual assault and harassment.
Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Daisy Cooper told the BMJ: “These revelations are truly sickening.
“We need an independent public inquiry now, to uncover the full extent of this scandal and put an end to it.
“Ministers must hold the NHS to account: every trust needs a dedicated policy in place to prevent sexual harm, a clear and effective process for those affected to report incidents and a single system to collect data so we can see the full extent of the problem.”
Dr Navina Evans, the chief workforce officer at NHS England, responded to the Guardian: “NHS England has established a dedicated team to ensure people who experience violence and abuse are supported in the workplace, and there is greater provision of support for all victims and survivors.
“All NHS trusts and organisations have measures in place to ensure immediate action is taken in any cases reported to them and I strongly encourage anyone who has experienced any misconduct to come forward, report it and seek support.”
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