- Fergus Hewson, Matt Pintos and Melanie Stewart-Smith
More than 35,000 incidents of sexual misconduct or sexual violence – ranging from derogatory comments to rape – took place on NHS England’s campuses between 2017 and 2022, a new investigation says.
Rape, sexual assault or touching without consent accounted for more than one in five cases.
Most of the incidents – 58 percent – involved patients misbehaving with staff.
Data for the investigation was collected by the British Medical Journal in association with The Guardian newspaper and the BBC.
These authorities took into account the commitment to freedom of information rules.
At least 20 percent of the data it received involved rape, sexual assault or inappropriate physical contact — including kissing.
Other cases include sexual harassment, stalking and offensive or derogatory comments.
One in five involved patients mistreating other patients — although no details were available.
One of the former patients told the BBC that a patient had sexually assaulted her while she was taking a shower at the hospital.
Mary (pseudonym) added: “Suddenly the door opened and there was a man standing in the doorway. I screamed because I wasn’t dressed.” Then he ran up to me and yelled, “I’m going to have fun with it.”
Mary explains that when he grabbed her hand she turned his hand away and pushed him away.
“Everyone was looking at me, so I ran away and tried to cover myself and parts of my body with my hands,” he said.
Mary, who is in her eighth decade, was hospitalized in 2020 with a heart attack.
Her attacker was sitting on a chair outside the shower room.
He reported the incident to the police, but the force said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the man.
A spokesperson for the NHS told the BBC that all NHS organizations must take strict measures to ensure prompt action is taken in cases of sexual assault.
But an investigation by Medical Journal and the Guardian found that one in 10 agencies within the agency had a policy dedicated to dealing with assault and sexual harassment – but no obligation for managers to report staff misconduct to the appropriate authorities.
Mary says she received no support from the hospital after the attack – and the NHS Foundation Trust told the BBC.
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper called for a new sex complaints system to protect patients, visitors and staff.
Cooper says Mary’s story is an example of the “totally unacceptable” sexual assaults taking place in NHS hospitals across Britain.
“I hear over and over again that this has happened to many people,” he added.
“There is no simple and clearly defined way to file a complaint of a sexual nature, and competent authorities must handle it respectfully and competently.”
Senior doctor Philippa Jackson told the BBC she was sexually assaulted by a senior colleague in the NHS when she was a junior doctor.
She added, “He was rubbing his body against my thigh and then he mentioned my erection.”
“Then he kissed the base of my neck and I felt very awkward and uncomfortable.”
When Jackson made a formal complaint about the co-worker, he was investigated by senior managers at the hospital.
She says, “They asked me a lot of questions about whether or not I did or didn’t do anything to make him do that or whether or not he wanted to flirt with me.”
He was told that management had not taken any action with the man and could not prove that the incident happened because no one witnessed it – so the investigation was closed.
Between 2017-2022, more than 4,000 NHS staff were accused of rape, sexual assault, harassment, abuse of staff or other patients, but a Medical Journal and Guardian investigation found 576 faced disciplinary action.
The Ministry of Health and Social Care said in a statement: “The Ministry of Health and Social Care is working closely with the Health Insurance Commission and recently held an urgent meeting with the leaders of the Health Insurance Commission to discuss how to tackle this scandal. Behaviour, and ensure services are always safe for staff and patients. .”
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