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Scotland Deanery

Home of medical and dental excellence

Trainee Development and Wellbeing Service

Resources for those who want to be an Active Ally

We invite everyone in our organisation to be an Active Ally, we are so glad you are joining us.

Becoming an active ally means committing to continually learning and reflecting on your own behaviours and privilege. There may be uncomfortable moments reflecting on past situations where you no longer excuse your own or someone else’s behaviour. This is ok, what’s important is your commitment to learning and adapting from here.

We recognise from the WPSMS report that sexual misconduct disproportionately affects women. However, we acknowledge the need for inclusive language to ensure everyone feels respected, recognised and welcomed in our diverse workplace. Where at all possible, we have avoided gendered language.


1. Educate yourself


NHS Education for Scotland eLearning module "Sexual harassment for line managers":  This module will support line managers across NHS Scotland and social care to identify sexual harassment, understand wider gender inequalities, support fellow colleagues who have experienced sexual misconduct, and highlight relevant policies and good practice that can be used in their own working lives.  https://learn.nes.nhs.scot/75201/equality-and-diversity-zone/protected-characteristics/sex/sexual-harassment-for-line-managers

BJS Sexual misconduct in surgery article: 'Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape by colleagues in the surgical workforce, and how women and men are living different realities: observational study using NHS population-derived weights'

WPSMS breaking the silence

21/11/2023: Surviving in Scrubs report: 'Surviving Healthcare: sexism and sexual violence in the healthcare workforce.'

NHS Once for Scotland Policy Bullying and Harrassment

Ross report and recommendations: 'The University of Glasgow's Approaches to Gender-Based Violence'

Engender Rosa project: Tackling sexual and sexist harassment in the workplace

Equality and Human Rights Commission Technical Guidance

GMC Ethical hub: Identifying and Tackling Sexual Misconduct


 2. Create a safe space 

Ask where the person is comfortable speaking


Free of blame

Create psychological safety

 Psychological Safety | Turas | Learn (nhs.scot)


 3. Centre their voices 

Listen and believe them when they share their stories 

“I hear you”  

“It took a lot of courage to tell me about this”

“I’m sorry you had to go through this” 

Do not interrupt

Do not downgrade it or say it could have been worse.  

Demonstrate empathy

Not everyone wants or is ready for anything more than simply being heard.


 4. Call out bad behaviour

Use of “I” statements 

Focus attention on how the action or behaviour made you feel rather than labelling the behaviour or person. This increases the likelihood that they are able to hear you and learn.

“I felt really uncomfortable and worried when I heard the comment you made during that meeting” 

“I think I just heard you say XYZ. Can you explain what you mean by that?”

Active Bystander Training 

This training session gives staff and students the skills to address unacceptable behaviours, including those which may have become normalised over time.

The aims of the session are:

  1. To promote an understanding of the impact of disrespectful language and behaviour  
  2. Decision-making techniques to help people overcome fear and self-doubt when faced with a challenging situation  
  3. Assertiveness techniques to give staff the confidence and tools to speak out, whether they are dealing with the challenge directly or calling for help from others.

We acknowledge that this training does not deal directly with sexual misconduct and are considering how to address this in a sensitive way.  


 5. Speak up and report it 

See our links for doctors in training and undergraduates here


 6. Active gender inclusion 

Demonstrating respect for all genders when no one is watching 


A note on language we have chosen to use

This work raised issues which are sensitive and personal. We acknowledge that the language we choose to use can have an impact 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.

Thank you for accessing these resources. We acknowledge that this is only a starting point and would welcome feedback. If you feel something is missing or would like to help shape our next steps please email tdws@nes.scot.nhs.uk


How to support witnesses of harassment and build healthier workplaces

What makes you speak up -- or not -- when you see something you know is wrong? Memory scientist Julia Shaw explains the psychology of those who witness workplace discrimination and harassment -- and shares actionable steps companies can take to support and amplify their voices.



This page was last updated on: 17.06.2024 at 15.46