An internal probing into the pervasive incidents of sexual harassment and exploitation of female surgeons within the National Health Service (NHS) has been instigated. Disturbing reports of women being subjected to sexual assault, even whilst surgical procedures were underway, surfaced prompting this investigation.
The report delving into these incidents for the first time uncovered a pattern of abuse where female trainees were mistreated by their senior male counterparts. The Health and Social Care Committee is set to scrutinize these issues, led by its chair, Steve Brine, who expressed profound shock at the revelations.
“In our capacity as the NHS, we hold the mandate to ensure all our hospitals are safe work spaces for each of our staff. Any manager found wanting in taking action against these atrocities will be held accountable as part of our future healthcare leadership review,” said Brine.
In some appalling instances, female surgeons have been touched inappropriately through their operating gowns and forced to endure male colleagues rubbing against them. Some have even endured rape or offers of career advancement in exchange for sexual favours.
The deplorable treatment of female surgeons has been denoted as “atrocious” by the British Medical Association (BMA), the doctor’s union. Engulfed by embarrassment, the Royal College of Surgeons of England acknowledges the rampant nature of the problem.
Dr. Latifa Patel, representing the BMA, decried this shocking behavior. She voiced the union’s horror at female surgeons enduring sexual transgressions from colleagues whilst performing their duties. The impact of these actions on personal wellbeing and professional development can, she observed, last for years.
Echoing the same sentiments was retired surgeon Dr. Liz O’Riordan, whose career was marred with years-long sexual harassment. She outlines the precarious position of trainee surgeons, who are often helpless given their reliance on the very colleagues perpetrating the harassment for their career progression.
According to a substantial survey conducted by the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, published in the British Journal of Surgery and comprising over 1400 surgical staff respondents, two-thirds of female surgeons recounted experiences of sexual harassment. Further alarmingly, a third report being sexually assaulted by colleagues in the past five years. The fear of ruinous career backlash and lack of faith in the intervention of the NHS were significant reasons for these incidents remaining unreported.
Dr. Binta Sultan from NHS England hailed the report as an eye-opening document necessitating further rigorous measures to ensure the safety of all within the hospitals. Meanwhile, the Department of Health issued an emphatic statement underscoring their intolerance towards any form of sexual violence stressing its incongruity with the ethos of the NHS.