One in 10 trainee doctors bullied or undermined by colleagues

Up to 8% of doctors in training have experienced bullying behaviour, while 14% say they have witnessed bullying in the workplace, according to GMC figures.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson: bullying warning
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson: bullying warning

Although the majority of training environments are supportive, bullying and undermining is ‘too common’ and ‘has a serious impact on quality of training and on patient safety’, the GMC said in its National Training Survey 2014.

Over half (54%) of those bullied said the behaviour came from a GP or consultant at their post.

Many trainees said they were ‘reluctant to speak out’ about their experiences, both from fear of reprisals or a lack faith that anything would be done if they did.

General practice scored favourably compared to most other medical professions, with one of the highest ‘supportive environment’ scores, suggesting bullying behaviour was less common.

Dr Kitty Mohan, co-chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said it was ‘unacceptable’ that so many doctors in training were experiencing bullying behaviour.

She said: ‘Doctors have a duty to speak out about concerns over care, but they need the support of the organisations they work for to feel empowered to do so. This is especially true for doctors in training who may be less confident than more experienced doctors when it comes to raising concerns.’

No tolerance of bullying

A new indicator to assess how supportive training environments are and flag up potential cases of bullying and undermining will be developed in light of the results, the GMC said.

This will include a series of questions, where respondents will rate whether they agree or disagree to statements such as: ‘in general, the working environment is a supportive one’; ‘staff, including doctors in training, are treated fairly’; and ‘if I were to disagree with senior colleagues, they would be open to my opinion’.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC said: ‘There is a need to create a culture where bullying of any kind is simply not tolerated. Apart from the damage it can do to individual self-confidence, it is likely to make these doctors much more reluctant to raise concerns.

'They need to feel able to raise the alarm and know that they will be listened to and action taken.’

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