Promoting partnership working in the NHS

Tackling Bullying in the NHS - A collective call to action

To deliver excellent care to patients, our NHS organisations need to be well led and have healthy, supportive, positive cultures.

However, with a quarter of staff responding to the NHS Staff Survey reporting they have been bullied in the last 12 months, we know there is much more to do.

Bullying can have serious consequences for affected individuals and those they work with, reducing productivity and risking poorer patient care.

To explore the issue, former Department of Health (DH) minister, Ben Gummer chaired a roundtable of NHS leaders and academic experts after which he asked the SPF to develop a plan to tackle bullying in the NHS.

The SPF Workforce Issues Group (WIG) has led the work, drawing together evidence and front line experiences which have resulted in a strong case for change. A range of suggested actions supported by resources, advice, guidance and good practice are available to help organisations develop their own plans in partnership to tackle bullying. Work on developing these resources will continue. 

This call to action invites all NHS organisations to:

• achieve the overarching leadership and cultural change to tackle bullying

• support staff to respectfully challenge problem behaviours

• publish their plans and progress so staff, patients and the public can hold them to account.

SPF is supporting partnership action:

• by system leaders led by DH and NHS Improvement

• by organisations supported by NHS Employers

• by individuals and teams supported by unions working with their members.

The SPF will keep progress under regular review through its quarterly meetings.

SPF partner organisations have developed some useful tools and resources, to help tackle bullying in NHS:

NHS Employers website includes tools and resources to help tackle bullying and harassment.

In the first of a two part series of podcasts on the NHS Employers website, Jon Restell, Jon Lenney and Dr Madeline Carter talk about bullying and harassment, the problems the NHS face and how they can be tackled.

Part two in the tackling bullying and harassment series of podcasts features Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust talking about their cultural ambassadors project, which was a 2016 HPMA partnership award finalist. 

You can listen to the first episode of the hot topics podcast series, produced by NHS Employers for Capsticks' HR advisory service (HRA). This new series will focus on culture and behaviour in the workplace.

UNISON's website features some useful information about bullying and harassment. Tackling bullying at work is a UNISON guide for safety representatives. Harassment at work is a guide used by UNISON branches and stewards to negotiate policies which prevent, tackle and deal with incidences of harassment and bullying in the workplace.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists working with the Royal College of Midwives produced the undermining toolkit, to address the challenge of undermining and bullying behaviour in maternity and gynaecology services.

The Royal College of Nursing website has a section on bullying and harassment for members who experience bullying or harassment at work.

Read how Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals have developed a project, in partnership, to tackle bullying and harassment in their trust. 

The Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group (HSWPG) has published material on bullying in healthcare. This includes a tackling bullying and harassment in the NHS infographic. 

Read how West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust encouraged staff to speak up about behaviour or safety issues. 

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has produced a guide called Bullying at Work: Beyond Policies to a culture of respect​ to help personnel professionals and others deal more effectively with bullying, harassment and interpersonal conflict at work. 

The British Medical Association (BMA) website includes information on how to address bullying and harassment at work​​​

The Health & Safety Executive has produced advice for individuals who are being bullied. 

ACAS offers free online courses in bullying and harassment, conflict resolution, managing people and performance management. 

The Society of Radiographers website includes information on a campaign to stamp out bullying

Stonewall has produced a guide called Bullying – preventing the bullying and harassment of gay employees

The TUC has published information on its website on workplace bullying with a messages to staff – don’t suffer in silence