Tuesday 21 November 2017

Bullying now endemic in HSE as junior staff among worst offenders

A third of trainee doctors said they felt the need for support. (Stock picture)
A third of trainee doctors said they felt the need for support. (Stock picture)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Some young doctors are now bullying their more junior doctors and victimisation is spread throughout the health system, a new report has found.

The research has found that the most junior doctor had a greater risk of being the victim of another trainee medic.

This is despite the stereotypical image of a hospital bully as a senior consultant.

The revelation has led the Medical Council, which carried out the survey, to conclude that bullying is endemic throughout the health system.

Overall, one-third of trainee doctors at all levels said they were bullied or undermined.

The average age of trainees is 30 years old and around 54pc are female.

Interns, who are in their first year of work after getting their medical degree, are the most likely to be be bullied, undermined or harrassed in a post.

The Medical Council has been tracking the work life, health and wellbeing of trainee doctors for three years.

Among the 828 trainees who participated in the survey some 36pc said they had been bullied or undermined in their training post in 2016.

This is is an increase of 1pc compared to 2015.

Around 4pc of the trainees said they felt physically unsafe in their workplace and training site.

More than one in two trainees said they had witnessed another member of staff being bullied or undermined.

The survey gives a behind-the-scenes insight into the hidden tensions in public hospitals, which are currently coping with record waiting lists and ongoing trolley overcrowding.

These trainees are frequently the doctor who looks after a patient for much of their hospital stay, although it is the senior doctor who is responsible for their care and the person who makes key decisions on diagnosis and treatment.

One-third felt the need for support with an issue of wellbeing while as junior doctor.

But only a fraction of those who felt in need of help got support.

Moves are now under way to reduce the levels of bullying with the support of post graduate training bodies and also the doctors' union, the Irish Medical Organisation.

It emerged recently that bullying and harassment claims in the health service have led to €700,000 in payouts since 2012.

Earlier this year, the Medical Organisation signed a new Respect Charter in a bid to proactively deal with the problem of bullying and undermining behaviour being experienced by young doctors.

Stress

Former president Dr John Duddy, who is a trainee neurosurgeon, said: "Being subjected to unacceptable behaviour can lead to problems such as stress, anxiety and erosion of self-esteem.

"We must ensure that our trainees work in a respectful and safe environment that allows them to achieve their full potential as doctors."

He added: "This Respect Charter clearly demonstrates that we all recognise there is a problem and working together we are determined to change the culture and improve the experience of our trainees."

The report comes amid a revolt by a number of locum doctors, who work shifts left vacant due to lack of full-time doctors, over a decision by the HSE to cut their pay rates per hour.

The doctors stand to lose around €20,000 a year in income.

Irish Independent

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