NHS staff report exposure to pornographic images at work

NHS staff shown pornographic images at work

One in 10 respondents to a survey of NHS staff said they had experienced sexual harassment, including being offered money for sex and shown pornographic content.

The survey was conducted by public service union UNISON and published on 8 April. Its more than 12,000 respondents included NHS healthcare staff such as nurses, paramedics, and administrative workers from across the UK.

A total of 1,187 (10%) said they had been sexually harassed at work. Of these respondents, one in three (29%) said they had experienced sexual assault. Half reported being the target or leering or suggestive gestures, with a quarter describing unwanted sexual advances or demands. The most common problem was crude ‘banter’ or ‘jokes’, reported by 61% of those who had experienced harassment.

Other common issues included invasion of personal space (57%) and unwanted comments about their clothing or appearance (53%). Almost one in 10 (8%) had been exposed to offensive material such as pornographic images.

More than half (56%) of the harassment reported involved the victims’ colleagues, with 16% being caused by managers. In a further 40%, the source of harassment was a patient.

‘NHS staff often put up with this appalling abuse’

In addition to this data, the survey also collected reports of specific incidents from the respondents. One healthcare worker described having her bra undone by a male colleague in her workplace. Another said a colleague had offered them money in exchange for sex.

An emergency care worker in the south west said: ‘A work colleague is constantly messaging me, booking on to the same shifts as me and making sexual advances. I tried to avoid working with him, but he was relentless.’

Half of the staff (51%) had not reported the incidents described. Their reasons for not doing so included being considered ‘over-sensitive’ (60%) and a lack of trust in the process (53%).

Christina McAnea is the general secretary of UNISON. She said: ‘No one should ever have to endure such despicable behaviour, and certainly not in their place of work. But NHS staff often put up with this appalling abuse, not reporting it because they don’t believe they’ll be taken seriously.

‘More must be done to protect nurses, healthcare assistants, cleaners and other NHS staff from sexual harassment, reassure them their complaints will be fully investigated and action taken against the perpetrators. Employers must take swift action when workers flag up incidents regardless of whether the sexual harassment has come from a patient or a colleague. Otherwise, this completely unacceptable behaviour will simply continue.’

Follow Dentistry.co.uk on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar