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Trainee Development and Wellbeing Service

Sexual Misconduct Resources

These resources have been adapted by NHS Education for Scotland from those developed by Lothian Medical Education Team to help highlight concerns around sexual misconduct in the workplace.

The resources help educate all of us about the scale of the problem, they support us to reflect on both our actions and the actions of others and importantly they give us a framework so we can improve.

Why we need to do this work

In September 2023, the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery (WPSMS) released its independent report on sexual misconduct within the surgical workforce: 'Breaking the Silence: Addressing Sexual Misconduct in Healthcare'. The report details the tragically high prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault within the surgical workforce, with two thirds of women reporting having been the target of sexual harassment and a third having been the target of sexual assault.  This is abhorrent.

The working party were specifically investigating sexual misconduct within the surgical workforce however there should be no doubt this issue is one that is common across all of healthcare.

Our first steps, include developing online resources, to provide information and support for those who have been exposed to sexual misconduct in the workplace. We acknowledge this is only a starting point and will actively seek to continue to improve these resources in collaboration with trainees and medical students.

We recognise if our workplaces aren’t safe for doctors in training and students then our work in improving the educational environment is futile.

Addressing sexual misconduct behaviours in the healthcare workforce, and ensuring support and appropriate channels to escalate this by those who experience it, matters because;

Everyone should feel safe whilst in work, or in company of work colleagues. The report highlights:

  • There are damaging, untold personal costs for individuals who are subjected to sexual misconduct.
  • Working in an environment where sexual misconduct is normalised is not healthy and can also damage the caring relationship those who experience it have with their patients.
  • Sexual misconduct results in individuals deciding to not enter certain professions or leaving as a result of the toxic misogyny they experience.
  • Many who perpetrate acts of sexual misconduct towards colleagues also demonstrate this behaviour towards patients
  • Patients who are cared for by dysfunctional teams have poorer outcomes.

A note on the language used

This work raises issues which are sensitive and personal. We acknowledge that the language that we choose to use can have impacts on those reading. We have been guided by the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery (WPSMS) report in our choice of language; their work was informed by direct experience of discussing with a wide variety of professionals including those impacted by sexual misconduct.

We do not use the terms ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’. While victim is used as a legal term, the common usage of the words ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ can confer an assumption as to how a person who has been targeted by a perpetrator feels. Many reported to WPSMS they feel neither of the above but are simply angry at what happened to them, furious that justice has not been served and morally injured by the fact that the person who assaulted them, remains in post.

We acknowledge those engaging with this website page may feel differently about our language choice, and that is valid. Please get in touch, if you feel we could use language in a different way that feels more supportive.

This is the start of a conversation. We would love you to be part of it. Please join us in this work- we can be contacted via email tdws@nes.scot.nhs.uk