Sexual Harassment Rampant Among NHS Female Surgeons, Shocking Study Reveals

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A comprehensive analysis of National Health Service (NHS) personnel reveals that female surgeons are being subjected to sexual harassment, assault, and even rape by their colleagues. Some women have reported instances of sexual assault occurring in the operating theatre during surgical procedures.

The preeminent trend that emerges from the findings is the exploitation of female trainees by senior male surgeons within NHS hospitals. This startling insight prompted the Royal College of Surgeons to describe the results as “truly shocking”.

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Described by some to be an open secret in the field of surgery, this rampant abuse recounts hideous tales of women being groped inside their scrubs, having male surgeons wipe their sweat on their chests, or being bullied through sexually suggestive advances. There are even cases where career advancements were subject to sexual favors.

The research, conducted jointly by the University of Exeter, University of Surrey, and the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, reveals that more than half – almost two-thirds – of female surgeons who participated in the study experienced sexual harassment, and a third claimed to have been sexually assaulted by colleagues within the past five years.

The fear of jeopardizing their careers and a sense of disillusionment with the responsiveness of NHS stifles most victims from reporting such instances.

‘His face in my cleavage’ – such protests evince the reluctance and fear to speak out openly among female surgeons. Women at the receiving end of such transgressions speak of feeling violated, humiliated, and tarnished.

In addition to the physical violations endured within the operation theatre, the scope of this sexual misconduct extends far beyond the hospital. At medical events and conferences, female trainees report having to contend with inappropriate advances and coercive behavior from senior colleagues.

Unfortunately, this culture of silence prevails, as surgical training entails learning from senior peers who hold major sway on the career futures of these women. The first-ever report attempting to quantify the scale of the issue shows disturbing statistics – 90% of women and 81% of men have witnessed some form of sexual misconduct.

The data indicates that while some men are also victims of such behavior, the clear divergence in the experiences of male and female surgeons suggests that they navigate through different realities within the surgical profession.

Recommendations from these reports highlight the dire need for change. The dominance of men in the surgical profession, a relentlessly hierarchical system, and an intensely high-pressured operating environment create a dangerous amalgamation that enables some male surgeons to exploit their positions with impunity. This unchecked behavior has devastated careers and lives, warranting an immediate and major change in investigation processes to ensure independent, external, and more importantly, trusted inquiries.

Responses from authorities have been swift and unambiguous. Both the Royal College of Surgeons of England and NHS England condemn the deplorable behavior revealed by these reports and have promised severe consequences for such conduct. NHS England is also undertaking significant steps to provide more support and effective reporting mechanisms for victims of such misconduct.

The General Medical Council has also updated its professional standards for doctors, declaring any sexual misconduct as incompatible with the continued practice of medicine in the UK.

However, questions remain regarding the safety of female surgeons in the surgical field today. The answer, according to one surgeon, is a grim – and sometimes – negative one.