Feature Commentary

Sexual harassment and bullying in UK surgery: no room for complacency

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i4682 (Published 01 September 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4682
  1. Scarlett McNally, consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, Eastbourne, and council member, Royal College of Surgeons
  1. scarlett.mcnally{at}nhs.net

All surgeons need to guard against the effects of unconscious bias

A 2014 General Medical Council survey of 50 000 junior doctors in the United Kingdom found that about 8% had experienced bullying, with no significant difference between the sexes.1 Thus such incidents would seem to be much less common than among the nearly 50% of Royal Australasian College of Surgeons fellows, trainees, and international medical graduates who have reported discrimination, bullying, or sexual harassment. Any bullying, though, even 8%, is unacceptable.

Why are conditions better for surgeons working in the UK than in Australia in this regard? Firstly, we have had training programmes for decades with a bureaucratic but intense schedule of scrutiny. Every trainer has to justify any failure of a trainee to progress. Australia’s training programme was introduced only in 2007, so most trainers there did not follow a structured training programme themselves, and trainees have not benefited from the same …

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