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10-point action plan to address sexual misconduct in healthcare launched by RCPSG

A 10-point action plan aimed at tackling sexual misconduct in healthcare has been launched by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG).

The plan includes a range of measures to support healthcare professionals, from providing education and training on recognising and taking appropriate action on sexual misconduct, to strengthening the College Code of Conduct and supporting the collection of data on inappropriate behaviours.

The launch coincides with the publication of the NHS Staff Survey, which highlights sexual harassment as an issue within the NHS, and was informed by the findings of an independent report by the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery (WPSMS).

This independent report entitled ‘Breaking the Silence: Addressing sexual misconduct in healthcare‘, which was published in September 2023, detailed the findings of a survey distributed to members of the surgical workforce in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

It revealed that two thirds of female respondents (63.3%) reported having been the target of sexual harassment from colleagues, along with just under a quarter of men (23.7%).

Almost 30% of women reported being the target of sexual assault in the last five years.

Mike McKirdy, president of the RCPSG, which has more than 16,000 members in the UK and internationally, called the WPSMS findings ‘bleak‘ and said the Royal College was ‘appalled by these statistics‘ on sexual misconduct and wanted ‘to ensure that every member of our extended College community feels safe and respected in their place of work‘.

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The 10-point action plan therefore ‘sets out the measures we are taking to help tackle inappropriate behaviours wherever they may occur‘.

He added: ‘The 10-point action plan is not an exhaustive list – we will continue to work with Fellows and Members to listen, and hear, what other actions we might take.‘

Professor Christine Goodall, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery and the RCPSG’s representative on the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, said: ‘Sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviours affect every area of healthcare.

‘We believe that medical Royal Colleges have an important role to play in building safer communities, and by showing leadership, healthcare professionals can help to drive the change that is needed in society more generally. It is incumbent on us all to speak out if we witness inappropriate behaviour and to properly support those who come forward to report it.’

Since the publication of the WPSMS report, the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) has ‘redoubled our efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and sexual assault’ in healthcare.

Professor Vivien Lees, vice president of RCS England and lead on sexual misconduct, said: ‘We have written to NHS Trusts that haven’t yet signed the NHS sexual safety in healthcare charter, encouraging them to do so as soon as possible.

‘RCS England is actively lobbying accountable government and NHS organisations on the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery recommendations including the need for reforms of reporting and investigation processes.’