It’s ruined my career’: accounts of bullying in the NHS

The Guardian 26 October 2016 

Midwives, nurses, doctors, managers and other healthcare professionals speak out about the bullying they suffered and the effect on their health and wellbeing

Long corridor in cold blue
‘It’s changed me for life. I’m no longer confident of getting anywhere in my career, the one I have been working at since I was 16.’ Photograph: atbaei/Getty Images

Guardian survey has found that there is a pervasive culture of staff bullying in parts of the NHS and that it has a detrimental impact on staff wellbeing and, in some cases, patient care.

Here are some stories from healthcare professionals submitted in our survey and to the Guardian about their experiences:

I was diagnosed with an acute stress incident with a critically high blood pressure

Everyone was frightened of this one man who thought nothing of sexually harassing female members of staff. When I challenged him on a decision that was not legal, his rage was spectacular. After one [meeting with him], I zoned out, temporarily losing feeling in my right hand and the ability to speak coherently. Thinking I may be having a heart attack or stroke, I attended A&E and was diagnosed with an acute stress incident with a critically high blood pressure. Anonymous manager

A bully almost managed to wreck my career as a doctor

When I was a junior doctor, the consultant I was due to work under had a reputation for having anger issues and suffering no fools. He used to take pride in making juniors cry and had T-shirts made which he used to hand out to people who were on the receiving end of one of his typical public outbursts. For the first few weeks, things were pleasant, fast paced and intense. But then, he became sharp with me – not tolerating mistakes I made, then blaming me and victimising me. I was blamed for not knowing anything about patients who had just arrived. My confidence disappeared. After a few months, I had mild depression. After a difficult crash call where the equipment was not on the trolley in the right place, I had a clinical incident form put in about me, suggesting my abilities as a doctor were insufficient and that I was not fit to progress to specialty training. There was no enquiry into what happened or how to help me. By sheer luck, I had an end of rotation meeting where it came out that I had been bullied like a previous doctor who went through the rotation. I thought I was just a bad doctor. I progressed to specialty training and continued my career. Anonymous doctor

When I reported bullying, I was told I needed to toughen up

Not long after I started on placement at a trust, a senior midwife turned to me and asked me what I would do if she ever withheld care for a woman I was looking after. I told her I didn’t think she would withhold care and that we all have a duty of care to the women we support. She laughed and then said my card was marked, in front of a number of other midwives. After that, I was advised that I needed to apologise to a midwife I had “pushed out of the way” during a delivery. That didn’t happen. I was disciplined for not changing the water often enough for a woman I was caring for despite the jug never being less than half full. I had paperwork torn up and told to rewrite it as it wasn’t worded the way my mentor liked. I was told to stop standing around chatting and to get “my arse in the kitchen” and do some washing up in front of about 20 members of staff at handover. I was spoken to so rudely in front of labouring women that two said they wanted to complain. I was shouted at and told I was stupid. When I reported these incidences, I was told I needed to toughen up. An investigation ensued but the findings were that the bullies said they were unaware that we felt bullied. I will never practise as a midwife despite having a passion for supporting women. Anonymous former midwifery student

I raised concerns after seeing nurses bully me and patients but it got me nowhere

The nurse/nurses that bullied me also bully patients. I raised concerns regarding the bullying and its infringement to patient care and safety using the whistleblowing policy. My superior claimed to have known the bullying had gone on for years; however she did not want to call it “bullying”. She intimidated me to drop the concern and the nurse/nurses in question are still working. My argument is, as a registered nurse, regardless of banding, we have to follow the same Nursing and Midwifery Council code of conduct, and bullying is breaking that code. Not only is bullying illegal in any organisation, it seems to be tolerated in the NHS. No one should be scared to go to their work, and, after a 13-15 hour shift, be emotionally exhausted due to their own colleagues rather than the job itself. Anonymous nurse

Bullying has changed me for life

It’s changed me for life. I’m no longer confident of getting anywhere in my career, the one I have been working at since I was 16; and all because of a group of people who turned my workplace into the film Mean Girls. I’m still on antidepressants, I missed out on promotion, my once exemplary sickness record is tarnished – I’m on a sickness stage that means I’ll eventually have to face a disciplinary. It was all done behind my back, all smiles to my face, so I can’t prove anything. I know some of what went on as people have told me what happened when I walked out of a room, but I can’t prove it. Anonymous allied health professional

I spoke to human resources but they were no help at all

When I spoke to HR their only advice was that I could make a formal complaint, but that that didn’t usually help. My line manager was helpless to do anything about it because we were admin staff and the nurses, who were bullying me, were “above” us. I just didn’t “fit” for some reason, though my colleague was bullied too. I left the job eventually because of health problems. I was previously under the impression that HR was there to help employees but I did not feel helped at all. I also think that in the NHS trust I worked for bullying came from the top of the organisation and worked its way down. Unfortunately we were at the very bottom. Anonymous administrator


2 thoughts on “It’s ruined my career’: accounts of bullying in the NHS

  1. the problem is doctors nurses them sticking up for each other you allowed them to push a wedge between you all its getting now to be a farce yet doctors and nurses staying together attacking government policys has they allowed gov to get away with them allowing bullying but then gov doesnt want or need whistle blowers has they quietly privitise the nhs

  2. Pingback: NHS whistleblowing articles in 2016: TWO years post Francis Review with NO change | sharmilachowdhury

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